What if?' is a game best played close to Election Day

Robert Houk • May 5, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Political pundits and campaign handicappers often play the “What if?” game. It’s purely an exercise in speculation, sometimes sprinkled with thoughtful analysis and a dash of historical background. Here’s what I am talking about:“What if Candidate X can’t get out the city vote on election day? Can he still pick up enough county votes to win?” “What if Candidate Y loses re-election? Is her political career over?”Tuesday is Election Day, so I thought it would be appropriate to engage in a little “What if?” today.n What if Michael Rutherford is unsuccessful in knocking off Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge in the Republican Primary? Will his job as county zoning administrator be in jeopardy?It all depends on how vengeful Eldridge is and how many commissioners who back the incumbent are elected to the county board in August. Rutherford works for the County Commission (although there are times when the opposite appears to be the case). If Rutherford’s supporters on the commission lose re-election (some of them could be defeated in Tuesday’s primary), then he might have some trouble.Even so, I don’t think Rutherford has too much to worry about if he loses the primary. Eldridge doesn’t strike me as a man who would seek revenge in that way. And it’s not entirely certain that Rutherford’s faithful cadre of commissioners will all lose re-election.Many of those who have been targeted by Eldridge supporters are asking voters in their district to vote for only one candidate (and it’s not hard to guess who that candidate is) in the primary. This so-called “single-shot” strategy has been employed by crafty commissioners for many years and it’s the reason some of them have managed to stay on the board for so long. n What if Eldridge loses to Rutherford? Will that harm his political future?”It certainly won’t help. I’ve heard his supporters speak glowingly of Eldridge as a possible candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives someday. Losing your job as mayor of one of the largest counties in the 1st District would not be a good start to a congressional campaign.It’s still possible, however, for a gifted politician to retool his or her image for a new campaign. Richard Nixon certainly managed it, even after losing bids for president and governor of California in less than three years.n If Sheena Ramsey Tinsley wins her bid for register of deeds in Sullivan County, could we be seeing the start of a new political dynasty in Tennessee? You can bet on it. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s daughter has shown herself to be a force to reckon with in Tuesday’s GOP primary in Sullivan County. She has raised more than $35,000 and is considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Contributors to her campaign include Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe (who is also a state Republican Executive committeeman); state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City; and state Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville.Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at rhouk@johnsoncitypress.com. Like him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JCPressRobertHouk. Follow him at Twitter.com/houkRobert

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