Blackburn keeps Tennessee seat in GOP hands 

Conservative Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSenate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Trump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising 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 CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE’s (R-Tenn.) retirement.

Blackburn pulled ahead of Bredesen after the Senate’s divisive debate over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughIn private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book GOP senator compares impeachment inquiry to Kavanaugh confirmation Christine Blasey Ford receives ACLU courage award MORE, which polarized the electorate in Tennessee and other battleground states that voted for President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates 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 McConnellOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Deal on defense bill proves elusive | Hill, Holmes offer damaging testimony | Trump vows to block Navy from ousting officer from SEALs Trump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Congressional authority in a time of Trump executive overreach 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 AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderCrunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul Overnight Energy: Mark Ruffalo pushes Congress on 'forever chemicals' | Lawmakers spar over actor's testimony | House Dems unveil renewable energy tax plan | Funding for conservation program passes Senate hurdle 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 ClintonDemocratic strategist laments 'low bar' for Biden debate performance Wasserman Schultz makes bid for House Appropriations Committee gavel Trump to hold campaign rally in Pennsylvania next month 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.