Corker’s Senate seat is up for grabs — and Republicans are worried

Corker’s Senate seat is up for grabs — and Republicans are worried
© Getty Images

Tennessee is a very Republican state. This has been the case for quite a while. You will remember that, in the 2000 presidential election, Democrat Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreAl Gore: 'This experiment with Trumpism is not going well' Protecting democracy requires action from all of us Poll: Democrat Bredesen leads GOP's Blackburn by 5 points in Tennessee Senate race MORE lost his home state. 

The governor is a Republican, both U.S. senators are Republicans, and seven of the nine U.S. House members are proud members of the Republican Party. Both houses of the state legislature are firmly in the hands of the GOP.

To top it off, Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican presidential candidate, won the volunteer state by a whopping 26 points.

ADVERTISEMENT

Twenty-six points: Now that’s a landslide.

 

Even with all of this, Republicans are worried about keeping the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters MORE.

First, a few words about Corker. He, at times, has been anti-Trump — or at least he said some pretty unfavorable things about him. Then he made up with Trump and stopped saying nasty things.

He also has been Hamlet-like about running for reelection. First, he said he wouldn’t run, then he changed his mind and was going to run, and then finally decided not to run.

The Republican candidate for the Senate is Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly MORE, who is in her eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Corker says he supports Blackburn, and he has given the maximum-allowed financial contribution to her campaign. But his enthusiasm for her candidacy — and for her personally — seems severely limited. 

Corker, when asked, has refused to even say Blackburn’s name, and takes the opportunity to lavish praise in every way for the Democratic candidate for Senate, Phil Bredesen.

Bredesen is the former mayor of Nashville and served two terms as governor. He is universally described as charisma deficient. Yet, he is well-liked, and the adjective “popular” always seems to be used to describe his present political status. 

Another plus for Bredesen is that he is very wealthy. Not only is he wealthy, he doesn’t mind spending his own fortune to get elected.

Ideologically, he is a centrist. This guy is no lefty liberal; this former health-care entrepreneur did well in business. So, Republicans can’t label him as anti-business or anti-free enterprise.

Bredesen left office seven years ago, in 2011, but he was so attractive to Democratic chances that Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) actively recruited him. No other Democrat in Tennessee was considered to have a chance.

Blackburn is very conservative — some observers say even too conservative for conservative Tennessee. More than anything, her manner and persona is strident and intensely confrontational. Blackburn is happy to proclaim that she is “politically incorrect and proud of it.” She has tied herself to Trump in every way.

On Tuesday, President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE went to Nashville to campaign for Blackburn. This early trip in the political season was an unmistakable sign that the GOP is very anxious about the state. 

Trump couldn’t contain himself. He said of the Democrats, “They don’t want the wall, they want open borders, they’re more interested in taking care of criminals than they are in taking care of you.” If that rhetoric was not enough, he branded House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDisclosures suggest rebates and insurers responsible for rising out-of-pocket drug costs Democrats keeping GOP from motivating voters with Trump impeachment threat, analyst says Celebrities, lawmakers wear black to support Kavanaugh’s accuser MORE (D-Calif.) with this wildly untrue label: “the MS-13-lover.”

Trump’s plea was clear and to the point: “This election is a very important one, so you have to get out. We need Marsha Blackburn to win.”

It has been reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFord's lawyer: Hearing doesn't appear to be designed for 'fair', 'respectful' treatment GOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Press: Judge Kavanaugh must withdraw MORE (R-Ky.) regards Tennessee as higher in importance than the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those three states have Democratic incumbents up for reelection; they have been targeted because Trump won those states. 

The language that Trump used in Tennessee on Tuesday shows where he will be going to keep the Senate Republican. There will be no boundaries — no limits to the ugly divisive speech. Anything goes. Trump knows that a Democratic House and Senate would, for all practical purposes, end his presidency.

Tennessee was not even supposed to be in play. 

Yet, when the final votes are counted, Phil Bredesen could very well be the Democrat’s savior.

Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics. He previously was the political analyst for WAMU-FM, Washington’s NPR affiliate, and for WTOP-FM, Washington’s all-news radio station. He is a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.