Senate

Blackburn keeps Tennessee seat in GOP hands 

Conservative Rep. Marsha Blackburn (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 Corker’s (R-Tenn.) retirement.

Blackburn pulled ahead of Bredesen after the Senate’s divisive debate over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which polarized the electorate in Tennessee and other battleground states that voted for President Trump. 

{mosads}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 McConnell (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 Black (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 Alexander 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 Clinton, 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.

Tags Bob Corker Brett Kavanaugh Diane Black Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Lamar Alexander Marsha Blackburn midterm elections Mitch McConnell Tennessee
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