The U.S. Senate race in Tennessee has seen some movement lately in the polls and in the headlines. On Monday, there was singer Taylor Swift who voiced her open support for Democrat Phil Bredesen which set off a wave of new voter registrations. Then, on Wednesday, during a debate between Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn, Bredesen said he eventually would have voted for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. This set off a firestorm among some Democrats who saw it as a blatant political move meant to position himself more moderately for Tennessee voters.
Staying with me, here? OK, let’s proceed. Then, on Thursday, an undercover video surfaced of an alleged Bredesen staffer being secretly recorded saying that his candidate’s support for Kavanaugh is simply strategic and once Bredesen gets to Washington, he’ll fall in line like a “good Democrat” and vote the right way. The Washington Times offers this report:
A hidden-camera video posted Thursday showed several young campaign hands assuring an undercover Project Veritas investigator that the former governor would toe the Democratic line if elected, despite his statement last week backing the Supreme Court nomination of then-Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.
“It’s really close and we’re losing by a point or two. So he thinks that like by saying this, he’s appealing to more moderate Republicans and he’ll get more of them to vote for us,” said a woman identified as campaign staffer Maria Amalla.
Asked if Mr. Bredesen would actually vote for the Supreme Court nominee, a man identified as campaign field worker Will Stewart said, “Oh, he wouldn’t.”
“But he’s saying he would,” said Mr. Stewart on the hidden-camera video. “I don’t know if that makes it worse or better. No, it makes it better.”
That’s probably not a good position for any campaign to be in, even though this video is coming from a lower-level field worker. It’s an outright affront to voters if true, and very bad optics even if it’s not. This field worker could have been telling the cameraman what he, apparently, wanted to hear, that Bredesen will “tow the line” once he gets to Washington. However, it must be noted that the field worker doesn’t officially speak for the candidate or campaign.
Next, Politico reports on the fallout as Bredesen is losing campaign staffers and volunteers during the most crucial stretch of the race, angered over his statements during the debate saying he would vote in favor of Kavanaugh:
Campaign volunteers have been calling to cancel door-knocking and phone-banking shifts for Bredesen since his statement backing Kavanaugh, according to an internal spreadsheet maintained by the campaign and obtained by POLITICO. At least 22 volunteers so far have reached out to express frustration with the decision, according to the spreadsheet. POLITICO spoke with five who contacted the campaign to vent their anger.
It’s a small fraction of Bredesen’s total volunteer force, which numbers in the thousands, according to his campaign. But it’s also just one slice of the frustration roiling Democrats since Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court last weekend.
“As a woman voter in Tennessee, I felt torpedoed by the statement,” said Rhonda McDowell, a campaign volunteer in Memphis.
Volunteers are one thing, and they come and go all the time, so maybe it’s not a huge loss for the campaign. Still, losing volunteers in the Volunteer State? The joke writes itself! However, what about money? Politico also notes that Priorities USA, a massive Democratic Super PAC has said it will not offer any support to Bredesen in the final stretch:
Volunteer anger hasn’t been the only fallout after Bredesen became a rare pro-Kavanaugh Democrat. Priorities USA, a top Democratic outside group, announced it would not support Bredesen, though the group had yet to spend any money in the Tennessee race.
It’s possible that Priorities USA simply decided they could spend money elsewhere, and maybe the Kavanaugh move has nothing to do with their decision. Either way, it’s bad for Bredesen’s campaign since outside groups can spend millions of dollars on behalf of candidates and offer Election Day support as well.
Meanwhile, the Blackburn campaign is sitting back watching this all play out as her poll numbers climb, according to the Tennessean:
Republican Marsha Blackburn has surged to an 8-point lead over Democrat Phil Bredesen in a new CBS poll of Tennessee’s U.S Senate race — a bounce that coincides with the nation’s furious debate over the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The poll, released Sunday, found Blackburn, a conservative Williamson County congressman, with support from 50 percent of registered voters in Tennessee, compared to 42 percent for Bredesen, a former two-term Tennessee governor.
That CBS poll was taken last week, but the New York Times also released numbers from the middle of this week showing Blackburn with a 14-point lead. With just 25 days to go, Bredesen is digging quite a hole and will need all the help he can get to make this race competitive again in the home stretch.