The caucus chairman of the Democrats in Tennessee’s House of Representatives predicts three to six Democratic gains in the House, and perhaps more, if the chips fall their way.
“Any gains we have we will be a victory for us,” Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, told TNReport. “I think we can pick off three to six people within reason, and maybe if things go our way nationally a little better we might even get a little higher than that.”
One of the biggest problems Democrats in Tennessee face is at the top of the ticket: President Obama. Indeed, the Democrats’ historic losses in the legislature came with Obama’s popularity in Tennessee sinking to Mariana Trench-like lows. But Turner said that Obama is more popular now than he was in 2010.
“It’s not going to be as bad as it was,” he said, pointing to Obama making significant gains, particularly in Middle Tennessee.
But if Turner’s party doesn’t catch the breaks it needs, he says that Democrats have some built-in advantages — even against a possible Republican supermajority.
“We have more experienced people,” he said. “We know how to govern.”
Republicans need just two more seats to gain a supermajority, which would be 66 seats out of 99.
If the GOP gains a supermajority, fully half of Tennessee House members will have two years or less experience maneuvering through committees and playing hard-ball politics at Legislative Plaza.
The other key advantage, Turner said, is the unity of the Democratic minority.
“Our people will have 32, 33 people back… hopefully a little higher,” he said. “Our people will be solidly behind each other, where (the Republicans) are somewhat separated. You have the traditional Lamar Alexander, Howard Baker, Beth Harwell, Bill Haslam-type Republicans, then they’ve got the very extremist Republicans out there that seem to be pushing the wagon right now and trying to lead them in a direction to the extreme right.”
That creates a split that his caucus can take advantage of, Turner said, and, because of that, “My 30-some-odd Democratic votes is a pretty large block when it comes time to pass some important bills.”