Another national media opinion: ‘Hot-button’ Blackburn beats ‘pragmatist’ Bredesen?

Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the national political newsletter Inside Elections, expresses doubt in a Roll Call article about Democrat Phil Bredesen’s prospects for defeating Republican Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee’s U.S. Senate race despite polls showing the former governor with an edge in the race so far. An excerpt:

“He was a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good business person,” (outgoing Sen. Bob) Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, said recently. But that reputation may not be enough to elect the Democrat in November.

There is a huge difference between running in a state or local contest and running in a federal race. State and local offices are less about ideology and more about leadership, pragmatism and management skills.

Federal campaigns and elections are much more about “hot-button” issues that divide the parties and the country. That’s why Kansas voters could elect Democrat Kathleen Sebelius as governor in 2002 and 2006 but have not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932.

… (I)n Washington, D.C., Democrats and Republicans have very different ideas about taxes, government, entitlements, abortion rights, gay marriage, gun ownership, immigration and — at least traditionally — government spending. Party allegiance is much more important when voters decide who to send to Capitol Hill.

Bredesen was never seen as a liberal, partisan Democrat, and his early poll numbers suggest that Tennessee voters still regard him as a moderate and pragmatist.

But Republican operatives will unload on the former governor during the next six months, portraying him as a tool of Democratic Senate leader Charles E. Schumer, House leader Nancy Pelosi and every liberal Democrat they can stuff into a television commercial.

Indeed, shortly after Corker offered his complimentary comments about Bredesen, a Blackburn spokesperson responded that “Phil Bredesen will be a solid vote for Chuck Schumer and Obama, Clinton-era liberal policies, and Tennesseans are not interested in that.”

Can Bredesen respond to those charges effectively, or will Republicans succeed in painting him as just another liberal Democrat who will vote with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders?

Unless Bredesen can convince voters that he will be independent, the state’s Republicans and conservatives will return to their default position, which means supporting the GOP nominee.

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