The last time former mayor Willie Herenton met with the assembled media in his South Third St. congressional campaign headquarters, he let that “free for all” sprawl for all of an hour and a half and answered every question under the sun.
On Tuesday, a good month later, the only subject the media wanted to hear about, and the only one Herenton dealt with, was the out-of-the-blue announcement from the camp of incumbent 9th District congressman Steve Cohen of his endorsement for reelection by President Obama.
Given the general perception (disputed by Herenton and his supporters) that Cohen already had a commanding lead in the congressional race, that Herenton’s main campaign pitch has been an appeal to black voters to elect one of their own to Congress, and that Obama is very likely the most important African-American icon in American history, advance speculation in the media had been genuine wonder as to how Herenton could possibly spin Tuesday’s stunning development to his own benefit.
All things considered, Herenton did a reasonably good job of walking that tightrope, though he teetered dangerously from time to time on the brink of intemperate or impolitic remarks.
His basic approach was, first, to note that he disbelieved in the appropriateness or value of candidate endorsements; next, that he respected, even loved, President Obama, but doubted the value of his endorsement of Cohen — especially since the decision on a 9th District congressman would be made locally, by the district’s voters, not by “Washington, D.C.. or Chicago” and, finally, that the very fact that Cohen had sought an endorsement from the president signaled a “desperation” on the congressman’s part, an awareness, Herenton insisted, that “80 percent, minimum” of the black vote was committed to himself, along with a minimum of 5 percent of the white vote.
He’s not going to admit defeat, folks, because he can’t conceive of the idea that a majority of African-American voters will vote for a white incumbent over him. He was the first superintendent, and the first elected African-American Mayor, and everyone comes up to him and tells him they love him.
Of course they do, he’s a historical figure, and lots of folks do love him. However, when they turn around and vote for Steve Cohen because he does a great job for them, it’s going to be a stunner for the former Mayor. Back to the article:
The former mayor strove mightily to avoid negative comments about Obama but was not entirely successful.
“Most recent polls reveal, 6 out of every 10 Americans feel that our country is moving in the wrong direction,” Herenton said, “As much as I admire the Obama administration, they’ve not moved this nation forward.”
Herenton noted the president’s “declining” popularity and at one point attempted to minimize the significance of the Cohen endorsement by saying, “Mr. Obama has got to look hard and long to really know where Memphis, Tennessee, is.”
The Cohen camp had “rolled the dice” in seeking Obama’s endorsement, Herenton said. “In many cases, where the President has recommended people, they lost. This strategy could cause many Republican voters and people who anti-Obama to join the Herenton coalition.”
As if to further such a prospect, Herenton characterized himself as “more of an independent thinker, not as much to the left as Steve Cohen.” He said, “Cohen has been loyal to the Democratic agenda, I think, almost 100 percent,” while he himself was “more moderate, in the middle.”
He’s a Blue Dog? In the 9th District?? Really? THAT ought to go over well. No wonder he’s not spoken about issues lately!
For videos associated with this, please go click on the link to the article above. They speak for themselves