Phil Bredesen

National Journal looks into why Dems ‘can’t get it together’ in Tennessee

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

The National Journal is taking a deep dive into why Democrats have largely failed to make recent gains in Tennessee. The piece is written by reporting fellow Kirk Bado, who once interned in the state Capitol bureau for The Tennessean before going to graduate school.

The article examines why Democrats couldn’t make inroads in the 2016 election despite popular former Gov. Phil Bredesen being on the top of the ticket in the U.S. Senate race.

Bredesen failed to ride the blue wave, losing by 11 points as he carried only two counties, despite the same kinds of demographic changes that have helped other Southern states turn shades of purple. According to current projections, 30 percent of Tennesseans will be minorities by 2030. Given national trends of college-educated voters swinging further to the left, and Tennessee could be on its way to swing-state status; instead, its slate of federal officeholders are as red as those in Mississippi and Arkansas.

Democrats were right back where they started the decade: on the outside looking in.

Bado delves into Tennessee’s transition from conservative Democrats to conservative Republicans, dating back to favorite son Al Gore’s losing his home state in 2000 and the state income tax battles that occurred before and after that momentous election.

While a rightward trend since then should present an opportunity for Democrats, it hasn’t worked out that way, Bado writes:

In theory, Democrats should be well positioned to compete in Tennessee as Republicans shift further to the right. The population has increased by nearly 7 percent since 2010 on the backs of the rapid growth of the tech and health care industries, and a growing nonwhite population.

So what’s to be done? Activists like Charlane Oliver formed Equity Alliance want drastic action.

“The Democratic Party needs two things: They need a backbone and grow some balls,” she said. “Because the Republicans don’t fight fair, and you cannot bring a knife to a gunfight.”

State party chair Mary Mancini, who was elected to her third term in January, admits that her party has struggled to build a bench, failed to make Tennessee competitive, and acknowledges the dire straits the party faces. Yet she promised that Democrats are rebuilding in the state.

“We’re building a Democratic Party for the future, not just the elections coming up next November,” she said.

When asked what she will do differently to change Democratic fortunes, she seemed taken aback by the question, pausing for several silent seconds.

“That’s a really good question,” she finally said. “That’s something I’m going to have to think about a little bit.”

Read the full article here.

Here’s your Bill Lee inauguration gallery

Bill Lee delivers his inaugural address in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Bill Lee delivers his inaugural address in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee, bottom left, looks on as his Cabinet takes the oath of office in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig Tennessee Journal)

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Democrat Mackler to run for Senate in 2020

Democrat James Mackler, who was pushed out of the Senate race in December 2017 by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s entry into the race, tells Jonathan Mattise of The Associated Press he plans to run the Senate again in 2020.

An announcement video suggests Mackler will run on an anti-Trump platform. “The 46-year-old says he’s not a politician and President Donald Trump is making life harder across Tennessee, citing health care, the tax law and the trade war,” according to the AP report.

Mackler is the first candidate to say he will run for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville). Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he will decide about whether to mount a bid in the coming months, while newly-elected U.S. Rep. Mark Greene (R-Ashland City) has also been telling donors about potential plans to run.

 

O’Hara: Bredesen carried 10 biggest counties by cumulative 10 points. It didn’t matter.

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)

A guest column by former reporter Jim O’Hara:

Crow is always best eaten warm.

So, why didn’t Phil Bredesen’s performance in Tennessee’s top 10 counties with the most registered voters translate into a closer contest for the U.S. Senate?

The short and simple answer is that Marsha Blackburn swamped the Democrat by a 69-31 margin in the other 85 counties.  If Bredesen had managed even a 60-40 split, he would still have lost the election.

But the Associated Press wouldn’t have called it as early as 9:06 p.m. Central.

The top 10 counties – in terms of registered voters – are Blount, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Montgomery, Rutherford, Shelby, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson.

On Tuesday, they voted at the levels typical in recent elections and provided slightly more than 1.2 million votes, or 56% of the 2.2 million votes cast in the Senate race. Bredesen won the cumulative vote in those 10 counties by a margin of 677,226 to 559,898, or 55% to 45%.

He got 71% of the Davidson County vote and 66% in Shelby; he essentially ran even with Blackburn in Knox and Hamilton counties with 48% and 49% of the vote respectively.

Blackburn’s biggest margins in those top 10 counties came in Blount (64%), Sumner (63%), Williamson (59%), and Wilson (62%).

But of the 970,866 votes cast for the Senate race in the other 85 counties, she won going away with her 69% to 31% margin.

Was there an enthusiasm gap?  In Davidson County, about 59% of the registered voters came to the polls; in Shelby it was 51%.

In Blount County, about 57% of the voters went to the polls, and in Williamson it was close to 70%.

On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally posted on Facebook a Tennessee map, proclaiming the state a “Red Wall,” with only Davidson and Shelby blue.  And a Democratic Facebook friend of mine bemoaned the lack of a Beto O’Rourke in Tennessee

Maybe, there is no longer a center to contest in Tennessee, but the voting tea leaves seem more complicated then either would admit.  Can Republicans keep running up 70-30 margins?  How long before even those margins aren’t sufficient as the top 10 counties grow?

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O’Hara covered politics for the The Tennessean in the 1980s.

AP calls Senate race for Blackburn

Republican Marsha Blackburn has won the Tennessee Senate race against Democrat Phil Bredesen, according to The Associated Press.

 

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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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%.

 

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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