50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 16. Tennessee

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

16. Tennessee

Capital: Nashville

Nickname: The Volunteer State

Motto: Agriculture and Commerce

About the State

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, Tennessee was home to Native Americans from the Muscogee, Yuchi and Cherokee tribes.  In the 1770s, colonists from England moved into the area and leased land from the Cherokee, setting up the Watauga Association, one of the first attempts to set up an independent government by Americans that was separate from the British crown.  However, it only lasted a few years and the region later became part of North Carolina before three counties broke off in 1784 to form their own state called Franklin, but they were unable to gain acceptance to the Union.  When North Carolina ratified the Constitution in 1789, it also gave up their claim on the land to the Federal Government and it became part of the Southwest Territory, before becoming the state of Tennessee on June 1st, 1796.

By 1860, approximately 25% of Tennessee’s 1.1 millions residents were slaves, most of whom were used on the cotton plantations in the west and middle parts of the state.  It was the last to secede from the Union to join the Confederacy; only Virginia was the site of more battles; and it provided the highest number of men to the Confederate Army.  After the Union forces had gained control over western and central Tennessee in 1863, President Lincoln appointed Andrew Johnson – who would later succeed him as President – as the Military Governor of the state and Johnson abolished slavery within the state.  Tennessee was the first state that had seceded to be readmitted to the Union but, like all of the others that had made up the Confederacy, racial tensions remained.  The first Ku Klux Klan was formed in 1865, in Pulaski, TN, and sought to reassert white supremacy through violence and murder; and African-Americans were also subjected to segregation, through Jim Crow laws, and disenfranchisement, via measures such as poll taxes.  While the Civil Rights Movement brought about change all across the South, it was in Memphis that Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated by James Early in 1968.

Tennessee is famed for its importance in the development and history of rock and roll, blues and country music, with performers such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash beginning their careers in the state.  The economy is based around agriculture, in particular cattle, poultry and soybeans; cotton; textiles; and tourism, with the major destinations being Presley’s Graceland home, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Tennessee borders 8 other states – tied most with Missouri – is the 36th largest, ranks 17th in population – with just over 6.3 million residents – and is the home of three “Big Four” sports teams, the Tennessee Titans (NFL), Nashville Predators (NHL) and Memphis Grizzlies (NBA).  No Presidents have actually been born in the state, but Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson and James Polk all made their homes there.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 11

2008 Result: McCain 56.9% Obama 41.8%

Latest Poll: Romney +7%

Like Kentucky, 2008 marked the first time since 1960 that Tennessee had given its Electoral College Votes to the loser of the Presidential race.  Although it voted for President Clinton (who hailed from neighbouring Arkansas) in 1992 and 1996, the state is considered a Republican stronghold and Governor Romney is likely to carry it this November.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in Tennessee this year, as incumbent Republican Bob Corker seeks a second term against the Democratic party’s candidate, Mark Clayton, and Corker has a big lead in the polls.  The state has 9 seats in the House of Representatives, currently split 7 to the GOP to the Democrats’ 2 and that is expected to remain the same after November’s ballot.

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