Phil Bredesen in 2008?

Desperate to become competitive in the South and thus have a more-than-mathematical chance at regaining the White House, many Democrats have argued that they need a moderate southern governor to headine the ticket. Along with Virginia’s Mark Warner, the most often-mentioned named is Tennessee’s Phil Bredesen.

Glenn Reynolds has a piece in today’s WSJ dubbing Bredesen, “The Next Bubba?

A while back, The Economist of London called him a governor with a CEO approach. And The New Republic recently made him the subject of a cover story focusing on his ability to win over the opposition. But should he decide to run for president in 2008, his biggest problems may come from his fellow Democrats.

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Gov. Bredesen’s success at reaching out to the opposition is undeniable. He’s probably the most popular governor in Tennessee history, and there are even people around the state who call themselves “Republicans for Bredesen” and plan on backing him, across party lines, if he runs for president in 2008. His biggest problems, though, may come from within his own party.

The state income tax has long been a holy grail for the urban part of Tennessee’s Democratic Party; Gov. Bredesen isn’t pushing it. Meanwhile, his TennCare reforms are angering people who don’t want to see benefits cut, and he is waging all-out war against the public-interest lawyers who have turned to the courts, over and over again, to block efforts to shrink TennCare rolls or lower benefits. This led Gov. Bredesen to comment, in his Jan. 31 State of the State Address, that “There are many people who claim to represent the public interest in this, but not a one of them has ever stood before the voters.” This attitude has ruffled some feathers among the state’s public-interest community, and the journalists who tend to sympathize with its views and goals.

Bill Hobbs demurs, however, accusing Reynolds of highlighting only Bredesen’s good points. “Bredesen’s policy failures, broken promises, irresponsible spending and outbursts of condescension toward small-business and social conservatives are roundly ignored.”

I haven’t paid enough attention to Bredesen (or, indeed, even Warner despite living in Virginia the past two years) to know what type of presidential candidates they’d make. Still, one has to presume they’d fare better than John Kerry or Hillary Clinton in the South.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.