ADVERTISEMENT

Reader Zulalily asked for info on the Tennessee race, so we moved it up in the order of our “Race Spotlight” series. Ask and ye shall receive. There is no incumbent, because Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican, is retiring. And with popular former governor Phil Bredesen, as their candidate, a Democrat is actually seen to have a surprising chance to flip the seat.

ADVERTISEMENT

Real Clear Politics offers insight into the race, with links to candidate bios and recent poll results, showing both candidates taking turns with the lead. Also, an analysis of the State.

[Even before the Democratic “Solid South” turned Republican. . .] The Volunteer State was long something of an anomaly in the South. The mountains in the eastern portion of the state had been a bastion of strong Republican support since the Civil War. The GOP therefore maintained a sizable presence in the state. Unlike in the rest of the South, Democratic presidential candidates rarely received more than 55 percent of the vote there, and in good Republican years like 1920 and 1928, they even lost.

Politico notes that although Bredesen easily won re-election as governor in 2006, his biggest obstacle this year is that he’s a Democrat.

Tennessee has grown downright hostile to Democrats since Bredesen, an avowed centrist, served two terms in the governor’s mansion: President Donald Trump won the state by 26 points in the 2016 election, and Democrats haven’t won a Senate race there since 1990. . .

“If the question on the ballot were, ‘Do you want to send a Democrat or Republican to Washington?’ I would lose. If it’s, ‘Do you want to send Phil Bredesen or Marsha Blackburn to Washington?’ I think I can win that,” Bredesen told POLITICO in an interview. . .

Some Republicans worry that simply polarizing the race around control of the Senate isn’t enough, given Bredesen’s deep well of support. “I don’t think that’s the winning message,” said one Republican strategist with experience in Tennessee, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “That’s the message that shores up your base Republican voters, but it doesn’t move your swing voters, which is where [Blackburn] has to win.”

The surprising thing is that the campaign has not been nasty yet.

So far, the race has been surprisingly lacking in negative ads compared with other battleground states. Bredesen has aired $3.5 million of positive ads about his tenure as governor and his willingness to work with Trump in certain areas. Blackburn has aired two positive ads, one introducing herself and another highlighting her work combating human trafficking. Nonprofits associated with Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are both on the airwaves with positive ads.

The third major political voice is also watching the Tennessee race, pointing out that in “the year of the woman,” the Republicans have a woman for Senate, but are dropping two woman-held seats in the House.

Blackburn. . .(she prefers to be described as a congressman) was certainly well-positioned for this run, with a deeply conservative record and reputation. Some people in the GOP establishment in Tennessee were wary of Blackburn, but Republicans at the national level helped her candidacy along. A group called Winning For Women, which is raising money for female GOP candidates (borrowing from the model of Emily’s List on the Democratic side), got behind Blackburn last fall. . .

[However, if] if they are interested in closing the gender gap on Capitol Hill. With Blackburn and [gubernatorial candidate Diane] Black running for higher office, there were primaries on Thursday to fill the House seats they would be leaving open. Two men won. . .It’s not just that male candidates won — there appears to have been little effort to make it possible for Black and Blackburn to be succeeded by other female Republicans.

Considering Tennessee’s strong Republican identity, it’s little surprise that the betting site, PredictIt, is currently giving the Republican a 56-44 probability of winning.

The polls have not been so one-sided, according to business channel CNBC.

Bredesen leads among independent likely voters, garnering 49 percent compared with 45 percent for Blackburn. He also does a better job than Blackburn of holding the line within his party.

The ex-governor has the support of 97 percent of Democrats, while Blackburn draws 0 percent. Meanwhile, the GOP representative has the backing of 86 percent of Republicans, compared with 9 percent of support for Bredesen among GOP likely voters.

Nine percent of likely voters answered that they might choose a different candidate on Election Day.

Bredesen has made a point of saying he’d work with Trump when he felt administration policies were good for Tennessee. But of course, the only negative campaigning in the entire race has come from Trump, himself.

“Phil whatever the hell his name is, this guy will 100 percent vote against us every single time,” Trump says in the ad.

Everyone else has stayed positive. In fact, even outgoing Senator Bob Corker refused to bash Bredesen—while saying he gave Blackburn a donation.

“I’m not going to campaign against someone who I’ve been a friend with and worked with, you know? So that’s the way it’s going to be.”

OK. That’s the horse race. It’s a well-liked centrist former governor against a Trump-clone who beat the party’s favored candidate. But what about issues?

{Federal Deficit}
Blackburn: We must increase economic growth and couple it with spending cuts.
Bredesen: Congress should start by paying for needed corporate tax cuts by closing loopholes.

{DACA}
Blackburn: DACA is. . .anti-democratic and creates an unsustainable immigration system
Bredesen: Exiling them to a country that is completely foreign to them is morally bankrupt.

{Net Neutrality}
Blackburn: Tennesseans do not want government-controlled internet.
Bredesen: We should guarantee equal access for everyone

{Human Trafficking}
Blackburn: we must stop it, which includes securing the border.
Bredesen: help local, state and federal agencies improve coordination

{The Wall}
Blackburn: The insecure border is a threat to our national security
Bredesen: modern technology gives us much better and cheaper ways to do this.

{Obamacare}
Blackburn: We need to fully repeal it and should expand health savings accounts
Bredesen: I criticized the ACA. . .But many Tennesseans now depend on it

{Opiod Crisis}
Blackburn: by increasing civil and criminal penalties for bad actors
Bredesen: Big Pharma. . .defanging the DEA’s authority to intercept big opioid shipments.

{Congress and War}
Blackburn: the commander-in-chief and the military must make rapid decisions.
Bredesen: Constitution. . . gives Congress, and not the president, the power to make war.

{Trump’s Tariffs}
Blackburn: these tariffs are a bad deal for Tennesseans.
Bredesen: These tariffs are the same as a new tax on Tennesseans.

{Gun background checks}
Blackburn: ensure. . . that appropriate red flags are recorded and are shared.
Bredesen: close the gun show loophole. The FBI should be properly funded

{Federal Minimum Wage}
Blackburn: {In] a growing economy. . .companies compete for better workers through better wages.
Bredesen: the federal level. . .avoids driving jobs from one community or state to another.

{Same-Sex Service}
Blackburn: [Merchants] should be free to practice their beliefs. . .and their understanding of Scripture.
Bredesen: disputes must be resolved. . .without subjecting gay persons to indignities

There you have it, Zulalily. It’s a race between a centrist Democrat and a Trump Republican. We have limited space, but if you want to read more, you could consult these stories for a further in-depth look at all facets of the race:

Add Comment | Follow us on Twitter and Facebook
Filed in: 2018 Midterms Tagged in:
Goethe Behr is a Contributing Editor and Moderator at Election Central. He started out posting during the 2008 election, became more active during 2012, and very active in 2016. He has been a political junkie since the 1950s and enjoys adding a historical perspective.

Subscribe Via Email

Sign up for instant election alerts and the latest content delivered to your inbox:

Comments