By Chas Sisk | The Tennessean
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has moved the race between U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and state Sen. Eric Stewart up on its list of priorities, a sign the organization plans to throw its financial weight into the campaign.
The DCCC placed the 4th Congressional District race in its "Red to Blue" category, indicating that it sees the election as a close yet winnable race for the Democratic candidate.
The DCCC, which coordinates the Democratic Party's campaign strategy for congressional races nationwide, usually follows up such a move with an increase in spending.
A spokeswoman for the organization did not return calls Thursday, but a similar push in the final days of the 2010 campaign by its rival, the National Republican Congressional Committee, helped transform DesJarlais from an unknown doctor to an upset winner over U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis.
The intensification of the race also raises the likelihood that the NRCC will begin spending to defend DesJarlais' seat.
DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, held a seven-to-one cash advantage over Stewart as of late September and has already launched a major television advertising campaign.
DesJarlais' ads have focused on Stewart's backing of the Affordable Care Act, recasting a race that recently has been dominated by the disclosure that DesJarlais pressed a patient with whom he'd had a romantic relationship to carry out an abortion.
DesJarlais, who has long characterized himself as "pro-life" on the abortion issue, says that he used "strong rhetoric" to get the woman to admit she was not really pregnant and that no abortion ever took place.
Stewart, D-Belvidere, has been trying to convince supporters that the disclosure has shifted the dynamics of the race. He used the DCCC move to appeal to supporters to donate to his campaign.