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“It’s new territory, and he hasn’t [been in office] for a long time. He didn’t run for anything before that. He had to build his base as he went last time; he came out of nowhere. He had to start from scratch.”
Four unaligned GOP consultants with knowledge of the race uniformly saw the incumbent with the edge and Mayfield as more likely to knock Fleischmann off than Wamp.
But Mayfield’s campaign has had a number of major stumbles since he announced at the beginning of the year. In late April, Mayfield’s son was charged with and admitted to slashing the tire of a Fleischmann aide. In a YouTube moment, Mayfield appeared at a loss for words trying to answer what he wanted to accomplish if he got to Washington, D.C. And he refused to participate in a debate with Wamp and Fleischmann.
“I’ve just been pretty stunned at the stumbling out of the gate,” said another unaffiliated GOP consultant. “Scottie has a lot of catchup to do, and I’m not sure if he has time to do it.”
Tommy Hopper, Mayfield’s consultant, brushed off the criticism.
“We really haven’t spent much of our money yet, and campaigns are determined by the messaging in the last four weeks or so,” he said. “We think the fact that Scottie Mayfield has spent the last 40 years of his life creating jobs ... gives him the kind of experience he needs to go up and change Washington.”
None of the candidates have placed ads on television yet, but the dynamic of the campaign is expected to change when they do.
Fleischmann had a significant edge in money at the end of the first quarter, so he should be able to message aggressively. It’s unclear who might go negative, but in an interview, Wamp fired a shot across Fleischmann’s bow.
“I think there’s a lot of people who are attracted to my campaign because they think Chuck is bought and paid for by party leadership in Washington, by special interests,” said Wamp, who turned 25 in March. “They know that I’m going to go there and challenge the status quo and not just do whatever Speaker [John] Boehner or Leader [Eric] Cantor tell me to do. And that’s exactly what Chuck has done.”
In 2011 votes, where a majority of Republicans voted against a majority of Democrats, Fleischmann voted with his party 97 percent of the time, according to Congressional Quarterly’s vote study.
“I get up every day, I work hard, but I work primarily and exclusively for the people of Tennessee,” Fleischmann said. “If leadership likes that, that’s great, and if they don’t, that’s great, too.”
The district is heavily Republican, so the winner of the primary is almost certain to win in November.