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Blackburn keeps Tennessee seat in GOP hands 

Conservative Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnDems vow swift action on gun reform next year Blackburn calls for addressing mental health issues after California shooting Dems to ramp up oversight of Trump tech regulators 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 CorkerJuan Williams: Trump's hostile takeover of the GOP Divided Congress to clash over Space Force, nuclear arsenal Flake not ruling out 2020 run against Trump MORE’s (R-Tenn.) retirement.

Blackburn pulled ahead of Bredesen after the Senate’s divisive debate over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughScalise: Investigations into Trump by House Democrats could backfire Schumer’s headaches to multiply in next Congress Top Judiciary Dem: No plans to investigate or impeach Kavanaugh MORE, which polarized the electorate in Tennessee and other battleground states that voted for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to oust Nielsen as early as this week: report California wildfire becomes deadliest in state’s history Sinema’s Senate win cheered by LGBTQ groups MORE

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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 McConnellPress: Trumpism takes a thumping The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump says Florida races should be called for GOP | Latest on California wildfires | Congress set for dramatic lame duck Congress braces for high-drama lame duck 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 BlackMany authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress Blackburn keeps Tennessee seat in GOP hands  Republican businessman to become Tennessee governor 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 AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderBlackburn keeps Tennessee seat in GOP hands  Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Judge urges insurers to drop challenge over non-ObamaCare plans | Azar vows to push ahead with drug pricing proposal | No increase for ObamaCare outreach budget Dems blast Trump rule changes on ObamaCare 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 ClintonSinema invokes McCain in Senate acceptance speech Sinema defeats McSally in Arizona Senate race Hillicon Valley: Social media struggles with new forms of misinformation | US, Russia decline to join pledge on fighting cybercrimes | Trump hits Comcast after antitrust complaint | Zuckerberg pressed to testify before global panel 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.