Another national media report on Bredesen vs. Blackburn for U.S. Senate

Excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article on Tennessee’s U.S. Senate race between Democrat Phil Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn:

“Many times Phil acts like a Republican,” said Colleen Conway Welch, a Republican who co-hosted a Bredesen fundraiser in her home in Nashville. “He’s a centrist. He was a good mayor and a good governor.”

Before a parade in late April in the west Tennessee town of Paris, Mr. Bredesen said in an interview he is undaunted by Mr. Trump’s victory margin in 2016 because he believes many voters were moved more by antipathy to Democrat Hillary Clinton than love for Mr. Trump. Still, one of his television ads begins bluntly: “Look, I’m not running against Donald Trump.’’

Later that day, he appeared at a Stanley Cup playoff game of the Nashville Predators where he was recognized by the game announcer for helping to bring the hockey team to town as mayor, and for keeping it in town as governor.

“I know Phil Bredesen is a Democrat running on a Democrat ticket, but he was a great governor,” said Dorothy Miller, a Republican Trump voter who watched Mr. Bredesen in the Paris parade.

…Mr. Bredesen is running away from his party—sometimes even against his party. In the interview, he said the Democratic brand in Tennessee has been damaged because too many voters think the party isn’t addressing their pocketbook concerns.

“I am a Democrat. It’s an organization I belong to. It’s not a religion,” he said. “I’m not going to go [to Washington] to be a warrior for the party against anything Trumpian.”

He has been a critic of the Affordable Care Act. As governor, he riled many Democrats by cutting a state program that expanded Medicaid—part of a record that led some liberals to object when President Barack Obama considered making him secretary of health and human services.

…One obstacle (for Blackburn) is that she is still not as well known outside her mid-Tennessee congressional district. Jack Young, GOP mayor of the east Tennessee city of Bristol, said she has her work cut out for her because Mr. Bredesen as governor left a big “footprint” in the area. “She will have a run for her money,” Mr. Young said.

Democrats are hoping—and some Republicans are worrying—that Ms. Blackburn is too conservative to win. But no GOP rival from the establishment wing came close to beating her to the nomination.

“Establishment forces think that Marsha is too conservative, but they lost,” said Andrew Roth, vice president for government affairs at the Club for Growth, a conservative political group that endorsed Ms. Blackburn.

The Blackburn campaign says it believes it has an edge because the 74-year-old Democrat hasn’t run a political campaign in 12 years and much has changed since then, including the growth of digital advertising, the rise of Twitter and the tougher, faster pace of campaigning that has brought.

While Mr. Bredesen has been broadcasting ads on television, Ms. Blackburn, 65, hasn’t yet gone on air and her campaign is instead using social media and digital ads to connect with targeted voters.

“This is a boxing ring,’’ said Ward Baker, former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a senior adviser to Ms. Blackburn’s campaign. “We’re going to put him in a corner and he won’t get out.”

Other Republicans acknowledge the fight has just begun.

“If the election were held tomorrow, the election would be close,” said Robin Smith, former Tennessee Republican Party chairwoman, before attending Ms. Blackburn’s speech in Chattanooga. “But the election is in November.”

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