The largest audience of their campaign awaits the two gubernatorial candidates Friday night.
It’s a live final prime-time debate televised at 8 p.m. on WATE 6 On Your Side, between acknowledged front-runner Republican Bill Lee and underdog Democrat Karl Dean.
Most analysts think the gubernatorial race is Lee’s to lose, so the debate is critical to any chance for former Nashville Mayor Dean.
“Karl’s problem is that he is running against a reasonably smart, good guy, successful businessman,” says longtime political commentator Bruce Dobie.
Conservative commentator Steve Gill would remind Dobie that Democrats running statewide always start in the red.
“This is a red state. This is a Republican state. The default setting is about 10-points (ahead) if it’s a generic statewide ballot,” says Gill.
Gills adds that starting position is maintained by Lee’s likability.
“I think he is doing that masterfully right now,” Gill said. “People are not judging him right now on where he stands on the issues, that big “R” next to his name is good enough for them…unless he makes a stumble, he should be the next governor.”
Dobie, who leans Democrat, details Dean’s dilemma.
“What does Bill Lee say about anything?” asks Dobie. “Very little and to run against that is terrifically difficult.”
Dean hopes to change that with the final debate Friday night.
Lee, of course, will have something to say about that.
The debate coverage begins 7:30 p.m. online at WATE.com.