Bredesen speaks in Chattanooga, hours before Trump rally

Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen speaks at a fundraiser in Nashville on Aug. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Democratic Senate candidate Phi Bredesen held a rally on Sunday in Chattanooga just hours before President Donald Trump was scheduled to  come to the city to headline an event for Republican rival Marsha Blackburn.

“If the previous two visits are any guide, he’ll have plenty of derogatory things to say about me,” Bredesen said in his prepared remarks.

“That’s OK — politics today is a blood sport — but I’ve come here to show that there are other ways to campaign and to present your case to the people of Tennessee,” Bredesen said. “We should vote people in and out, not shout them in and out.”

Bredesen praised retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga), who “is understandably not here with us” — but was also not attending the Blackburn rally because of an unspecified prior engagement.

“I want everyone to know that I admire the job he did as Chattanooga’s mayor, and I respect enormously how he has carried himself in his two terms in the United States Senate,” Bredesen said. “As you all know, I’m seeking to follow him in that seat, and it would be a privilege to do so.”

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Haslam predicts Blackburn will win by at least 5 points

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks at a press conference at the state Capitol in Nashville on March 1, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Haslam predicted on  NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd on Sunday that Republican Marsha Blackburn will comfortably win the Senate race against Democrat Phil Bredesen because voters in Tennessee care more about the partisan makeup of the chamber than about the individual promises made by candidates.

The governor said the furor surrounding the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh shifted the race in Tennessee by 5 or 6 percentage points in Blackburn’s favor, adding that he thinks “Marsha will win by at least that much.”

“Tennessee is one of those states where the Kavanaugh hearings did change things,” Haslam said. “People realized well it really doesn’t matter, kind of, what you’re saying. The color of the jersey you’re wearing up there is really important.”

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O’Hara: The hill might no longer be quite as steep for Bredesen

Democratic candidate and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, left, speaks during the 2018 Tennessee U.S. Senate Debate with Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn at The University of Tennessee Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, Pool)

A guest column from former reporter Jim O’Hara:

“Follow the money” is still a pretty good political maxim. Republican and Democratic PACs continued to spend heavily in the Phil Bredesen-Marsha Blackburn U.S. Senate race  despite recent polls showing a Blackburn lead (totals this week alone: $5.9 million for her, $7.9 million for him).

Reviewing the recently completed statewide early voting, in fact, suggests a race to the finish. An earlier column argued for the outsized role in Tennessee of the 10 counties with the highest numbers of registered voters. In the 2014 mid-terms, those 10 counties provided 54% of the total vote. One can also assume President Trump didn’t pick Chattanooga for a Sunday rally for Blackburn just because it has spillover potential in the Georgia governor’s race.

The counties are: Blount, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Montgomery, Rutherford, Shelby, Sullivan, Williamson, and Wilson.

In the early voting that ended Thursday, those 10 counties were the top 10 counties of early voters. They cast 814,001 votes, or 59% of the total early vote of 1,378,840.

And Davidson and Shelby accounted for 350,924 votes, or 43% of the votes cast in those 10 counties.

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Democratic PAC makes last-minute TV buy in race for Harwell seat

The independent expenditure arm of the state House Democratic Caucus is making a last-minute television ad buy in support of Bob Freeman, the Nashville Democrat running to succeed retiring House Speaker Beth Harwell.

The Tennessee Tomorrow PAC is spending $77,325 on the ads to run between Saturday and Monday. The PAC’s largest funder is real estate mogul Bill Freeman, who has donated $200,000. The elder Freeman was an unsuccessful mayoral candidate in in Nashville in 2015 despite dropping $3.5 million of his own money into the race.

Bob Freeman faces Republican Brent Moody in the House District 56 race. Harwell was re-elected in 2016 despite the district voting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the presidential election. The race to succeed Harwell is considered the Democrats’ best chance in their efforts to pick up seats on Tuesday.

The Tennessee Tomorrow PAC has raised $530,000 since the beginning of the third quarter. Besides Bill Freeman’s $200,000, other big donations include $50,000 from the Tennessee Education Association, $50,000 from Laroche Enterprises, and $20,000 each from Friends of Darren Jernigan, George Bright, Mike Stewart, and the U.S. Rep Jim Cooper’s PAC.

ETSU poll finds Blackburn-Bredesen tied at 44%

A new poll by Eastern Tennessee State University finds Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen tied at 44%. That number is fairly consistent with what Bredesen has been polling at in a series of other public polls released this week, but far below the level of support (generally around 50%) that Blackburn has been receiving.

ETSU is unrated by the polling site FiveThirtyEight.com, while the other surveys released this week had ratings ranging from A to B.

The new poll also found Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee was leading Democrat Karl Dean by 47% to 35%.

The survey’s other findings, 52% sayid state is on the right track, while 20% think it’s on the wrong track. Seventy-three percent of Republicans were more likely to say the state was headed in the right direction, compared with 38% of Democrats and 42% of independents.’

The poll of 495 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points based on a projected turnout of 55%.

 

The Tennessean was blamed for boosting Blackburn profile in 2001

July 21, 2001

Political jokesters have taken to handing out placards saying “Annoy the Tennessean. Vote Blackburn.” But the vitriol against the Nashville daily didn’t always from from that direction.

In 2001, Democrats and Republicans alike blamed The Tennessean for unquestioningly boosting Blackburn’s profile during the income tax fight at the state Capitol.

Here’s an excerpt of a fake press release written on March 13, 2001:

 

GANNETT ANNOUNCES NAME CHANGE FOR NASHVILLE DAILY

In a highly anticipated move, the Gannett Corporation announced that the name of the daily newspaper in Nashville would no longer be the Tennessean. The company noted its intention to change the name of the hard-hitting news daily to the Marsha Blackburn Newsletter.

Editor Frank Sutherland welcomed the change by noting, “The Tennessean has always been interested in in-depth coverage of the issues that are important to the lives of Middle Tennesseans. We believe that the mission of the newspaper can be better served by being forthright with our readers and letting them know what our newspaper stands for. The recent article on our favorite Senator (Marsha, Marsha, Marsha) illustrates the hard line our news team takes. We lob the softballs, ahem, I mean ask the tough questions, and I believe it shows in our coverage. We believe in pressing our newsmakers for details, and calling their hand when they lack specifics. That’s why we thought the name change appropriate.”

There are expected to be no noticeable changes to the daily other than a mandatory photo of Marsha Blackburn front page above the fold in every edition…

On the passing of political reporter Rebecca Ferrar (aka ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Becky Bear’)

Rebecca Lynn Ferrar, who died of a heart attack this week at age 72, was given the joshing nickname ‘Lucifer’ during 11 years in Nashville as a reporter on state government and politics for the Knoxville News Sentinel.

She was my professional colleague for those years and a friend both before the newspaper’s management sent her to the state capitol to beef up reporting on state-level government and after they sent her back to Knoxville to shrink such coverage in accord with nationwide media downsizing trends (and, it’s fair to add, to enhance coverage of East Tennessee government and politics).

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Bredesen launches final ads of Senate bid

Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen has launched what he is calling his final ads of the campaign. There’s a 60-second version and a 30-second version, but the message is essentially the same:

“You have a clear choice. If you like Washington the way it is, partisan shouting and finger-pointing, I’m not your guy,” Bredesen says in the longer ad. “Congresswoman Blackburn has been steeped in that Washington way for 16 years and is good at it. That’s not my world.”

See the full transcript and the shorter version of the spot after the jump:

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Democratic independent spending closing gap on GOP?

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican Senate nominee in Tennessee, speaks at a Farm Bureau event in Franklin on Aug. 9, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The heavy spending by independent groups in the Tennessee Senate race shows little sign of abating despite a series of polls suggesting that Republican Marsha Blackburn has opened a lead on Democrat Phil Bredesen.

About $12.7 million has been spent in Tennessee so far this week alone ($6.9 million by Democratic groups, $5.8 million by Republican ones), while total outside spending reached $56.4 million.

As of Thursday morning, groups favoring Blackburn have spent $31.1 million in Tennessee, while those backing Bredesen had poured in $25.3 million.

The biggest spenders after the jump:

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Fox poll suggests widening lead for Blackburn

Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn speaks at a business forum in Nashville on Aug. 15, 2018 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A Fox News poll shows Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn with 50% support, up 2 percentage points from the last time the survey was conducted in early October. Meanwhile, the poll found support for Democrat Phil Bredesen dropped 2 points to 41%.

The poll conducted for Fox by Anderson Robbins Research and Shaw & Co. gets an A rating from the polling site FiveThirtyEight. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

(UPDATE: A CNN/SSRS poll — rated A-minus by FiveThirty Eight — finds Blackburn with a 4-point lead over Bredesen after previously finding the Democrat with a 5-point lead in September. Two other polls show Blackburn with 8-point leads: Emerson College which is rated at B+, and Cygnal, which gets a B.)

Blackburn’s lead in the Fox poll comes despite 55% of Democrats saying they are extremely interested in the election, compared with 48% of Republicans who say the same. At the same time, 92% of Democrats said they support Bredesen, while 87% of Republicans said they support Blackburn.

Approval of President Donald Trump was 58%, while 39% said the disapproved.

The poll included a sample of 54% self-identified Republicans and 35% Democrats.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee had a 54%-37% lead over Democrat Karl Dean, according to the poll.