WASHINGTON - Written off by a potential Republican challenger for his 2010 gubernatorial bid, Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., returned fire Friday and said his campaign is in fine shape.
"That's wishful thinking," Rep. Wamp said of state Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's recent comments that the gubernatorial campaign from the Chattanooga congressman is not gaining traction.
"The fact is, I am in this race for the long haul and to win," Rep. Wamp said. "I have a tremendous amount of momentum on the grass-roots level. I have the perfect blend of political savvy and business acumen and leadership. I have an excellent record on the things that Tennesseans care about."
Lt. Gov. Ramsey, also the Republican state senator from Blountville, this week announced that he has formed an exploratory committee to examine a possible bid for governor.
Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen cannot run again in 2010 because of term limits.
Also in the race on the Republican side are Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons.
Democrats in the race include former state House Majority Leader Kim McMillan and Nashville businessman Ward Cammack.
The Kingsport Times-News reported earlier this week that Lt. Gov. Ramsey told a Greene County GOP Lincoln Day dinner audience: "I don't think Zach is catching on" and that Rep. Wamp "was halfway aggravated" when they talked about his entry into the race.
Rep. Wamp said Lt. Gov. Ramsey's recollection of their conversation is wrong.
"In all due respect to him, that was something that he said that I didn't say," Rep. Wamp said. "I'm not going to get into this back and forth with him. He's lieutenant governor, and I think he should stay lieutenant governor because he's a good one."
Bill Todd, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Ramsey, said the lieutenant governor respects all of his potential opponents.
"Like Congressman Wamp, he has no desire to engage in a back and forth on political analysis," Mr. Todd said. "We have four strong Republican candidates and Tennessee voters will get a great opportunity over the next 17 months to compare their experience and vision."
Rep. Wamp said he remains committed to running for governor and will not be cowed into dropping out.
"If that was anybody's calculation, they miscalculated," he said. "We have good people running. The more, the merrier because the voters have plenty of choice."