If the 2012 presidential election were a hurricane, Tennessee would be in the eye.
The Volunteer State is so reliably red that neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama will spend much time or money here before the Nov. 6 election. So with all the political turbulence swirling around us, we are in a nice quiet spot for the next nine weeks.
I saw a pin map of all the campaign stops the two candidates have made nationwide in recent months. Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama don't have enough pins together to hem a pair of pants.
Heck, Tennessee doesn't have enough pins to draw blood. There have been zero candidate visits here.
Meanwhile, Ohio and Florida had so many map pins marking campaign stops that they look like voodoo dolls.
Trust me, you wouldn't want to live in a swing state during a presidential election. We vacationed in Florida in October 2008, and the scary voices on the television ads for John McCain and Obama sounded like Darth Vader was doing the voice-overs.
And that was back in the courtly old days when people actually thought compromise in Washington for the greater good might be possible.
The New York Times website has a special blog dedicated to the rigorous analysis of polling data. The blog gives Romney a 99.7 percent chance of winning Tennessee's 11 electoral vote in November.
And that's high drama compared to Alabama, where, according to the blog, there is a 100 percent chance of a Romney victory. Presumably, Romney will win Alabama even if he were to declare himself a Wiccan before Halloween.
I say all this just to make a point. Not being in the middle of a $2 billion political mud-slinging match has its advantages, no matter which candidate you favor.
Let's all enjoy a peaceful fall and let all that election angst blow right over us.
Today's Life section features scores of fall festivals and other diversions to fill up the coming months, but I thought I'd add a few of my personal favorites to the list as well.
• Attend a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs football game. If you missed the B.J. Coleman era, don't think Mocs football is about to sink back into obscurity. People in the know say the team might have the best overall talent and depth in years.
The days when we used to take our two sons and throw football in the seats -- because we had a whole section to ourselves -- are over. That's a good thing. Red-letter dates on the home schedule are Sept. 22 (Appalachian State), and Oct. 27 (Georgia Southern).
• Visit the Head of the Hooch. One of my favorite events of the year, this regatta attracts hundreds of rowing teams from Texas to the Ivy League. This year's Head of the Hooch event is Nov. 3 and 4.
Rowers swarm downtown for two days, and the riverfront area around Ross's Landing looks like it was designed with one of the nation's top regattas in mind. Pack a lunch and watch some of the most gifted athletes in America compete. Admission is free.
• Take a trip on the Tennessee Aquarium's River Gorge Explorer. Of all Chattanooga's tourist attractions this is my favorite. If you've never boarded the Explorer for a trip down "Tennessee's Grand Canyon," it might change the way you think about place where we live.
There are stretches of the trip in which the river gorge is pristine and ageless. You can imagine yourself a Native American or an early pioneer.
At the end of the day, though, if it's your nature to watch cable news channels, pound the arms of your La-Z-Boy and stew about the presidential election -- well, there's that, too.
Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.
Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...