Ball Claims He’s Cosing Gap with Alexander

Although Lamar Alexander has the advantages of funds, name-recognition and incumbency, Democratic challenger Gordon Ball says he’s giving Tennessee’s two-term United States Senator a run for his money.

And Ball says a poll his campaign sponsored shows Alexander is showing support well below 50 percent among a sample of likely voters. The poll, conducted late last week, shows Ball at 32 percent, independent conservative Tom Emerson Jr. at 13 percent and undecideds at 10 percent.

Another conducted the last week and a half of September for YouGov, CBS News and the New York Times, showed Alexander leading Ball 53 to 32 percent, with 12 percent undecided and 2 percent going with other candidates.

On the money front, a recent AP report shows, according to recent financial disclosures, Alexander has spent $8 million this election season. According to the report, Alexander raised $660,000 in the third quarter, spent $1.5 million and has $1.3 million cash on hand, whereas Ball loaned his campaign $1 million, raised $138,000 and spent about $115,000 in the same period, leaving him with about $1 million on hand.

Trace Sharp, Ball’s spokeswoman, attributed the drop in support for Alexander to the Maryville Republican’s continued refusal to participate in a traditional debate, as well as the beginning of a negative campaign against his Democratic challenger.

Alexander and Ball have faced off just once during the general election campaign, at a Tennessee Farm Bureau candidate forum on Oct. 16, which was not widely broadcast or formatted as a traditional debate.

Ball has said he will join in a debate in Nashville today among several of the independent candidates running in the Senate race. It starts at 1:30 at the Downtown Sheraton Hotel and will be moderated by Tom Humphrey of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Ball in the press release urged Alexander to join him and the other candidates for a discussion of the issues. However, according the the Alexander campaign, the longtime politician “has other long-scheduled events, so he will be unable to attend.”

Additionally, following the candidate forum, Alexander told reporters it was unlikely that there would be any other joint appearances with his opponent, because “it’s kind of late for that.”

In 2002, during his first run for U.S. Senate, Alexander and former U.S. Rep. Bob Clement, the Democratic nominee, had five televised debates. However, Alexander didn’t face off even once against Democratic opponent Bob Tuke in 2008.