MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Bob Corker is using the final weekend before Election Day to stress the differences between himself and his Democratic Senate opponent, Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr.
The former Chattanooga mayor has pulled ahead of Mr. Ford in the polls after weathering a storm of anti-Republican sentiment that swept through the state last month.
The latest Reuters/Zogby poll has Mr. Corker leading the race, 53 percent to 43 percent. The political furor over lobbying scandals and the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, after inappropriate e-mails he sent to male congressional pages became public has given way to a more tempered focus on local issues and traditional values.
“What has happened is people can see really clearly now that, in this race, there is a choice between two individuals that could not be more different in their perspectives,” Mr. Corker said yesterday as he shook hands along the route of the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) homecoming parade.
He said the state’s residents were excited about the national attention paid to the race and he predicts that it will determine which party will control the Senate.
“But they know this race is about Tennessee issues, and they want someone who represents their values,” Mr. Corker said.
About three weeks ago, the momentum seemed to be in Mr. Ford’s favor. He was leading in the polls and had received key endorsements from prominent conservatives in the state. Some campaign watchers said Mr. Ford was running the best campaign in the country.
His problems started two weeks ago when he ambushed a press conference by Mr. Corker in Memphis.
And Mr. Ford has turned many voters off by talking zealously about his religion and his church upbringing, telling voters, “I just love Jesus Christ.” In a recent interview, he said, “Republicans fear the Lord, Democrats love and fear the Lord.”
“I think that is where he lost a lot of people,” said Sean Taylor, wife of prominent MTSU basketball standout Claude “Sleepy” Taylor.
She said Mr. Ford seemed to have the race sewn up a month ago but that his continual appearances on national talk shows turned off the electorate and that it remains to be seen whether black voters who are not fond of Mr. Ford’s conservative political bent will go to the polls.
Sen. Bill Frist, whose seat Mr. Ford and Mr. Corker are vying for, campaigned yesterday with the former mayor at the parade and the University of Tennessee and Louisiana State University football game in Knoxville.
“You can see and feel the momentum shifting here, and the trends in this campaign on a consistent upward swing and in all the internal and external polls are the best in the country,” Mr. Frist said.