Thursday, October 12, 2006

Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, the Republican candidate to replace retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, has retooled his campaign in an effort to regain his lead over Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., Tennessee Democrat.

“We’ve made a number of enhancements to the campaign,” said Corker campaign spokesman Todd Womack. “They are more about addition than subtraction … adjustments to ensure that we win this election, and we will.”

The new campaign chairman is Tom Ingram, a longtime political insider in the state who serves as chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican.

Mr. Corker also has hired a new media consultant, former EMI Records executive Fred Davis. The campaign has moved its headquarters from Chattanooga to Nashville, the state capital.

Democrats need to win six seats on Nov. 7 to reclaim their majority in the Senate, and see hope in Republican-leaning Tennessee.

The party seized on the Corker campaign shake-up.

“Corker is in disarray, shaking things up and hiring Hollywood media types instead of explaining things like why he’s for staying the course in Iraq one day and against it the next,” said Phil Singer, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Mr. Ford yesterday received another boost: the endorsement of Frank Cagle, a leading conservative political analyst and editor of Knoxville Magazine.

The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are working to counter Mr. Ford’s momentum by infusing Mr. Corker’s campaign with new ads.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will lead rallies in Murfreesboro and Franklin with Mr. Corker and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican.

Polls heavily favored Mr. Corker over the summer before trending for Mr. Ford. The latest polls show the candidates in a dead heat.

Two weeks ago, when Ben Mitchell was Mr. Corker’s campaign chairman, he told The Washington Times that the campaign was comfortable with where it stood and noted that Mr. Ford “has yet to show above 45 percent in his own polling.”

Things have changed since then.

The DSCC released a poll of 800 likely voters Tuesday showing Mr. Ford leading Mr. Corker by seven points, 51 percent to 44 percent, with a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

Hamilton Beattie & Staff conducted the poll for the DSCC from Oct. 2 to 4, during the height of the frenzy surrounding disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican.

Polls conducted during that time showed a national trend against Republicans, which might have affected Mr. Corker.

A Survey USA poll of 537 likely voters for WBIR-TV Knoxville shows Mr. Corker leading with 48 percent and Mr. Ford with 46 percent, with a margin of error of four percentage points. The poll was conducted Saturday through Tuesday and released Wednesday. It still revealed a virtual dead heat in the race and more than 45 percent support for Mr. Ford.

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