TN-Sen: GOP candidate steps up criticism of Dem opponent, but he hits back just as hard

TN-Sen: GOP candidate steps up criticism of Dem opponent, but he hits back just as hard
Marsha Blackburn has stepped up her criticism of her main opponent this November, former Gov. Phil Bredesen, but his campaign says Blackburn's attacks don't hold water. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the likely GOP nominee in the race for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Bob Corker (R), has finally brought criticism of her likely Democratic opponent, former Gov. Phil Bredesen, to Trump-esque levels.

What happened?

During a 10-minute speech at the Tennessee GOP’s annual fundraiser last week, Blackburn, a pro-Trump ideologue, attached Bredesen to Democratic leaders in Congress and alleged Bredesen would sacrifice Tennessee’s priorities in order to toe the Democratic line.

“I think Tennesseans have about had enough of that!” she said, according to the Tennessean, which described Blackburn’s speech as “fiery.”

“Do you think Phil Bredesen would vote with crying Chuck Schumer or would he vote with our president when it comes to supporting our troops and supporting our veterans?” Blackburn asked.

She also castigated Bredesen for vocally opposing the Republican-led tax reform package that President Donald Trump signed into law last December, which brought relief for the majority of Americans and is partially responsible for current economic successes.

Blackburn also accused Bredesen of standing with illegal immigrants, arguing that a 2004 Tennessee law he signed, which provided illegal immigrants with driving certificates, is representative of Bredesen’s views on immigration reform.

“I’ll bet you he would like for them to get them to vote also,” Blackburn charged.

In the end, Blackburn urged donors who want “one more chance to vote against Hillary Clinton and her friends” to support her.

“And if you want to have a U.S. senator who is going to stand with President Donald J. Trump and get the job done for you, stand with me,” Blackburn said.

Is Bredesen really a Democratic puppet?

The former Tennessee governor has enjoyed wide support during his political career. In the Volunteer State, Bredesen is seen as a pragmatic leader and a moderate Democrat with crossover appeal who isn’t afraid to cross the aisle. Indeed, voters certainly view Bredesen much more favorably than they do Blackburn, a Vanderbilt University survey discovered last month.

But in response to criticism from Trump during a rally in May the president hosted for Blackburn in Nashville, Bredesen’s campaign said Bredesen would not be beholden to party politics in Washington — only to his constituents.

“Governor Bredesen has made it clear that if President Trump proposes something that’s good for Tennessee, then he’ll support it. Bottom line: Phil Bredesen is an independent thinker with a proven record of working with Democrats and Republicans,” his campaign said.

How did Bredesen’s campaign respond to Blackburn’s attacks?

Alyssa Hansen, Bredesen’s press secretary, drew a contrast between Bredesen and Blackburn, arguing Bredesen represents a Washington outsider and Blackburn represents congressional gridlock.

“Governor Bredesen’s message of working together to get things done is resonating with voters throughout the state who are tired of the hyper-partisan yelling and finger-pointing,” she said, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, adding:

[The] contrast between the Senate candidates increasingly clear — Tennessee voters can pick an eight-term Congresswoman who’s been causing gridlock in Washington for the past decade and a half, or they can hire someone who is an independent thinker and has a proven track record of working across the aisle to get things done for Tennessee.

“In the Senate, Gov. Bredesen will vote in the best interests of Tennessee and Tennesseans. That’s why he’s applying for the job,” Hansen explained.

Blackburn and Bredesen each face challengers in the primary election on Aug. 2.

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