In a new The Times Free Press item entitled, Bredesen goes all out in Senate race with Blackburn, what perhaps stands out most of all is Phil Bredesen’s close ties to the increasingly unpopular outgoing Republican Senator Bob Corker and the distance between Bredesen and President Trump.
They make it very clear that Bredesen wouldn’t even be running if he had to face off with Corker. That in itself makes him something of a mini-Corker, only worse.
It’s a race the 74-year-old never envisioned making until last year when his longtime friend, Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga, announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.
Bredesen, known as a moderate, and Corker go back to the mid-1990s, when Bredesen was Nashville’s mayor and Corker the then-state finance commissioner for Republican Gov. Don Sundquist. In various roles over decades, they worked together on projects, including the successful recruitment of the NFL’s then-Houston Oilers to Nashville and, while governor, working with Corker and local officials in 2008 to bring Volkswagen to Chattanooga.
“I had no intention of doing anything else when I left the governor’s office,” said Bredesen, who later succeeded Sundquist as governor and served from 2003-2011. “When Corker said he wasn’t going to run again, I had people calling me.”
Seeing polling numbers showing Bredesen a few percentage points ahead of Blackburn, some Republicans urged Corker to reverse his decision not to run, which Corker briefly did before announcing he would not. He then made national news when he said that although he was backing Blackburn, he wouldn’t campaign against Bredesen.
Public polling continues to show a tight contest. Bredesen hopes to pick up support from Republicans and independents like he did running for governor.
And then there’s the obvious conclusion that electing Bredesen as the next U.S. Senator from Tennessee would perhaps more than anything else, be a vote against a still popular Donald Trump. Those dynamics may not serve Bredesen well down the stretch as more and more Tennesseans begin to pay closer attention to the race.
Bredesen says his approach to governance has “always been kind of bipartisan for lack of a better word. I mean almost everything I did as governor we managed to have significant ‘D’ and ‘R’ support for, if you look back at the votes.”
He says he isn’t reflexively anti-Trump and will support the president and Senate Republicans when he agrees with them and oppose them when they differ.
“I don’t like this hyperpartisanship” in Washington, he notes. “I’ve never liked political theater and that’s what it’s become up there. And I’m not the only one who feels that way.”
Tennessee has become increasingly Republican over the past 25 years. But with Republicans now holding a razor-thin margin of 51-49 in the U.S. Senate, the Tennessee race is shaping up as one of the hottest contests. Depending on the outcome, it could tip the balance to Democrats, a fact that Blackburn and fellow Republicans, including Trump, have hit upon repeatedly.
Last month, the president came to Nashville for a rally in which he praised Blackburn and blasted Bredesen as a “total tool” of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. After seemingly forgetting Bredesen’s last name, Trump gifted him with one nickname, dubbing him “Phil whatever-the-hell-his-name is,” before finally settling on “Philbert.”