SPONSORED:

Blackburn keeps Tennessee seat in GOP hands 

Conservative Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Colbert asks Republicans 'have you had enough?' in live show after Capitol violence MORE (R) has defeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen in Tennessee, likely quashing Democrats’ chances of taking control of the Senate.

She will fill the seat vacated by Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE’s (R-Tenn.) retirement.

Blackburn pulled ahead of Bredesen after the Senate’s divisive debate over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughUndoing Trump will take more than executive orders LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing Harris to resign from Senate seat on Monday MORE, which polarized the electorate in Tennessee and other battleground states that voted for President TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 MORE

ADVERTISEMENT

Bredesen in an interview with NBC’s Kasie Hunt over the weekend criticized Senate Democrats’ handling of the Supreme Court fight and argued that “coming out immediately against anyone who Trump put up was a mistake.”

He tried to bolster his centrist credentials by announcing that he would have voted for Kavanaugh. 

He saw a small bump in the polls immediately before Election Day, but it wasn’t enough. 

Republican strategists in the state said Blackburn’s victory depended on Republicans in East Tennessee “coming home” and voting for the GOP nominee. They didn’t consolidate until late in the race because of lingering affection for Bredesen’s record as governor. 

Corker, who had long worked with him on issues affecting the state, gave Bredesen a small boost in April when he praised him as “a very good governor” and a “very good businessperson.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop Harry Reid 'not particularly optimistic' Biden will push to eliminate filibuster Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) later told Corker that those comments were unhelpful. 

Blackburn got off to a slow start in the race. An Emerson poll from July showed her trailing by 6 points and an NBC News/Marist poll from late August showed her behind by 2 points. 

A Republican strategist said voters initially confused her with Rep. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackBottom line Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party | More states sue Purdue over opioid epidemic | 1 in 4 in poll say high costs led them to skip medical care Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee MORE (R-Tenn.), who ran an ill-fated campaign for governor and got beaten soundly in the GOP primary. 

Blackburn, a firebrand, is more conservative than Republicans elected to the Senate from Tennessee in recent years. 

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE and Corker are seen as two relatively moderate members of the GOP conference. 

Before them, former Sen. Fred Thompson and former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker were seen as moderates. 

Thompson supported campaign finance reform in 2002 and refused to support a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage. 

Baker was known as the “Great Conciliator” and Jules Witcover of The Baltimore Sun praised him as “the last of the Republican moderates” when he died in 2014. 

Blackburn is cut from a different cloth. 

She hammered home partisan divisions during the race, repeatedly referring to former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden must wait weekend for State Department pick Texas Supreme Court rejects Alex Jones request to toss lawsuits from Sandy Hook parents Paris Agreement: Biden's chance to restore international standing MORE, and ran in support of additional tax cuts, border security and cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities. 

Corker, whom she will replace, by contrast, has said he’s opposed to additional tax cuts because of the impact they will have on the deficit. He was the only Republican to vote against the 2017 tax cut — which added hundreds of billions of dollars to the projected deficit — although he eventually voted for the final bill.