Blackburn and Bredesen hold first of two Senate debates

Here’s a roundup of the press coverage about the first Senate debate between Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen:

The Chattanooga Times Free Press‘ Andy Sher:

Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen clashed repeatedly here Tuesday night during their first televised U.S. Senate debate in a pivotal Tennessee contest rated as a toss up. Areas where the Brentwood Congress member Blackburn and Bredesen, a former governor, disagreed included the focus of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, how the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court should be handled, addressing the U.S. deficit and the opioid epidemic.

The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert and Joey Garrison:

In the combative one-hour exchange that was tense from the outset, Blackburn, a conservative Williamson County congressman, went on the offensive early and often against Bredesen, painting him throughout as an ally of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor, framed himself as an independent who would work with Republicans and look beyond partisan bickering to solve issues. Although his jabs were less frequent, he attacked the firebrand Blackburn as embodying the political divisions of Washington.

The Associated Press’ Jonathan Mattise and Kimberlee Kruesi:

Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen quickly promised not to vote for Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as his Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn repeatedly sought to tie the former Tennessee governor to national Democrats in their first debate for U.S. Senate on Tuesday. Blackburn reiterated multiple times that Bredesen’s campaign “is bought and paid for” by Schumer, doubling down later with reporters that Schumer recruited Bredesen to run for the open Senate seat and pointing out that he’s previously donated to and at times has praised Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and other leading Democrats. Meanwhile, Bredesen responded he would remain independent should he be elected in the upcoming Nov. 6 election, saying that he wouldn’t go to Washington to be a “political lackey.”

The Daily Memphian’s Sam Stockard:

Bredesen said the nation’s biggest problem is the “overarching issue of how dysfunctional Washington has become,” noting he would not turn his back on a lifetime of being an “independent thinker.” “If I go to Washington, I’m not going to be voting for Chuck Schumer,” Bredesen said for the first time during his initial answer in the debate held at Cumberland University in Lebanon, some 30 miles outside Nashville…. During the debate, Blackburn, a 16-year Republican member of Congress from Brentwood, accused Bredesen repeatedly of being recruited by Schumer to run for the Senate seat opened by Sen. Bob Corker’s decision to step away. “He could have run as an independent or Republican. If he goes to Washington, he will be voting with Chuck Schumer,” Blackburn said. She added, “His campaign is bought and paid for by Chuck Schumer.”

WPLN-FM’s Sergio Martínez-Beltrán:

The debate included questions on Affordable Care Act, health care and legalizing marijuana to solve the opioid crisis. Both candidates were also asked about a policy or law they supported that now they regret. Blackburn, who’s served in the House of Representatives since 2003, said she should have pushed for more spending cuts while in Congress. Bredesen, on the other hand, focused on his push as governor for college readiness. He said he now thinks he should’ve focused on vocational and technical careers, too.

Politco’s James Arkin:

The former governor’s pledge to vote against Schumer is his largest break from the Democratic Party thus far. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is the only other Democratic battleground Senate candidate who has pledged to vote against the party’s leader. The pledge is functionally useless — unlike in the House, where the speaker is chosen by a majority of the chamber in a floor vote, Senate party leaders are chosen by a majority in a private caucus vote. While there might be enough Democratic House candidates to deny Pelosi the 218 votes she needs to become speaker again, there is virtually no chance of Schumer being dethroned by the Democratic Caucus after the election.

NewsChannel5 political analyst Pat Nolan:

Nobody made a big mistake, and nobody came up with an argument that will change minds. I think that those who were for the candidates are still for them, and those who were against them are still against them, and those who are undecided are probably still undecided.

The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs:

Blackburn seemed unable to finish a sentence without linking her opponent to Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama while he tried to separate himself from party politics almost entirely. The hour-long debate at a liberal arts college 30 miles outside Nashville represented a microcosm of the challenges for red state Democrats even in a favorable national political environment. Bredesen tried to tiptoe around divisive issues and avoid strong criticism of Trump. In the midst of the drama surrounding the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh for the supreme court, the Democrat said that the behavior of both parties on Capitol Hill “disgusts me” and declined to take a position on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

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