Tennessee 4th District
The invisible line between Civil War Republican and Civil War Democratic territory runs along the Cumberland Plateau, the westernmost swelling of the Appalachians, west of the valley where the Tennessee River runs south from Knoxville to Chattanooga. This is cave country. Under its green hills, Tennessee has 8,500 caves, more than any other state, with 15 species of bats and more than 100 species of rare insects. This invisible line separates the Tennessee Valley, which had few slaves and whose economic ties were with the North, from the rolling farmlands of middle Tennessee, first settled by Andrew Jackson in the 1790s and resolutely Democratic from 1829 when Jackson became the first president to call himself a Democrat. Sewanee is the pleasant home of the University of the South, and Bledsoe County, the pumpkin capital of the world. Columbia is the home of former President James K. Polk.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
General Motors launched its Saturn brand in Spring Hill in 1990, igniting growth in the region. But when the erstwhile auto giant went bankrupt in 2009, it shut down the factory and furloughed most of its 2,700 employees. Decherd in Franklin County has a large Nissan engine assembly plant. Lynchburg in dry Moore County produces Jack Daniel’s sour-mash whiskey, the nation’s No. 2 spirit in overseas sales that has been distilled in Lynchburg for generations. It is every bit the idealized small town that the distillery’s folksy, black-and-white advertisements make it out to be. Campbell County, where the construction of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Norris Dam once forced massive resettlements and low living standards, has rebounded as a retirement and tourist haven. Cattle are the district’s No. 1 commodity.
The 4th Congressional District of Tennessee crosses the state for some 200 miles. It reaches almost to Virginia in the northeast and almost to Mississippi in the southwest, bordering both Kentucky and Alabama. It ranks as the fourth most rural district in the nation. Republican nominee John McCain won every county here in 2008, picking up 64% district-wide.