The Tennessee Republican Party and its coordinated campaign effort, "Tennessee Victory 2006," have received harsh criticism this week from their counterparts in Washington at the Republican National Committee (RNC), according to GOP sources speaking on background to NashvillePost.com.
These sources tell NashvillePost.com that Tennessee Republican operatives were on a conference call earlier this week where they were bluntly told by GOP leaders in Washington that the effort being put forth in Tennessee is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
When asked today about the call, Chris Devaney, spokesperson for the Tennessee Republican Party, said "We speak to the RNC every week, I'm not on every call and can't speak to the particulars of every conversation. What I do know is that the RNC is very excited about the work going on here and Tennessee Republicans will see an unprecedented campaign."
The rebuke is said to be a result of state Republicans being seriously behind on performance goals in the areas of fundraising and grassroots operations, goals that have been laid out by the national party. Financial assistance is coming to the Republican state campaign efforts from the RNC, but with strings attached based on performance.
According to GOP sources, the RNC has targeted 15 states for the November elections and Tennessee Republicans are currently 14th on the list of meeting targeted performance levels.
One of the issues that NashvillePost.com was told to be of particular concern to the RNC was that internal polling has showed State Senator and Republican candidate for governor Jim Bryson trailing Gov. Phil Bredesen in Williamson County.
Williamson County is Bryson's home county and has been one of the most reliable Republican counties in the entire country, for votes and financial contributions.
Since announcing his gubernatorial aspirations, Bryson has traveled the state seeking to energize support for his candidacy. The issue that his campaign has most tried to capitalize on is immigration reform.
His biggest splash of the campaign so far has been a press conference held in June with Heather Lynn Steffek. Steffek's parents were killed earlier this year when an intoxicated illegal immigrant lost control of his vehicle and crashed into one being driven by her parents.
NashvillePost.com has learned that one of Bryson's first campaign ads will be focused on illegal immigration and was shot recently with a number of Hispanic laborers in a rural part of Rutherford County.
According to GOP sources, the RNC has not been pleased with the efforts of the Bob Corker for U.S. Senate campaign either.
Since winning the primary, Corker has done little that has energized the statewide GOP base. Meanwhile, Harold Ford Jr. has begun airing campaign ads that some political watchers expect to be highly effective.
The fear among Republicans is that the Corker camp is putting too much weight on the baggage the Ford family name brings and not taking into consideration how charismatic Ford is on television and in person.
Ford is the nephew of ousted State Sen. Ophelia Ford, indicted former State Sen. John Ford, who is awaiting trial on charges stemming from the federal "Tennessee Waltz" public corruption investigation, and the son of the controversial former Congressman Harold Ford Sr..
Four years ago, Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander easily held off Democratic Congressman Bob Clement in a race that saw a substantial number of split ticket voters.
Republican operatives speaking on background say that while they initially believed that split ticket voting would prevail, putting Corker in the U.S. Senate and Bredesen back in the governor's office, they are now close to hitting the panic button.
They are afraid a lackluster Corker campaign combined with Ford's charisma, voter dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush, Bredesen's popularity among Republicans, and a Christian conservative base that is not convinced Corker is a reliable voice for them will result in a Democratic sweep in November.
There are 53 days until the November election.