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TN-Sen: Marsha Blackburn gains ground in tight race, overtakes Dem opponent Phil Bredesen

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is running for the Senate, is now leading her Democratic opponent, Phil Bredesen, a new poll shows. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) has overtaken Democratic opponent Phil Bredesen in the race for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Bob Corker (R), a new poll shows.

What does the poll show?

Blackburn leads Bredesen by 4 points, according to a new Gravis survey, 48 percent to 44 percent. Eight percent of the 620 likely voters, conducted Aug. 9-13, were unsure who they will support in November.

The development is significant because most early polling showed Bredesen, a moderate Democrat and popular former governor of the state, leading Blackburn. In fact, according to Real Clear Politics, previous polls showed Bredesen with hefty leads, including a 10-point margin in March.

That means the Republican congresswoman has made considerable inroads with Tennessee voters in recent months. It also shows Tennesseans are comfortable with Blackburn's brand of politics, which is that of a Republican ideologue who does not waver from President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" agenda.

This fact is supported by the Gravis survey, which found that 54 percent of Tennessee likely voters approve of Trump's job in office, while 41 percent disapprove. Similarly, a majority of respondents told Gravis they would be less likely to support lawmakers who favor impeaching the president.

Meanwhile, the poll shows that November's victor will need to be someone who both supports Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Blackburn supports both ICE and Kavanaugh, while Bredesen has said ICE should not be abolished. He also said he will reserve judgment on Kavanaugh until the conclusion of the justice's confirmation hearings.

What else is going on in the race?

A Democratic-aligned group, Tennessee Citizen Action, filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Blackburn last week, alleging illegal communication between her campaign and three Republican advocacy groups. The group cited remarks that Ward Baker, a top strategist of Blackburn's campaign, made at a private luncheon last month.

The Tennessean explains:

The complaint targets the political action campaigns of Club for Growth Action, Americans for Prosperity and the Senate Leadership Fund in addition to Marsha for Senate.

Baker, in audio leaked from the event and reported last month by The Tennessean, is heard discussing the role of outside Super PACs in Blackburn's U.S. Senate race against Democrat Phil Bredesen. He had been specifically asked about the role of the conservative brothers Charles and David Koch, whose network includes Americans for Prosperity.

"We're going to have a lot of people involved," Baker said at one point. "To be honest with you, it’s just really — the Super PAC world and outside groups is part of your campaign now. And if you don’t treat it that way, then you’re going to lose because that’s just another arm.

Campaign finance law prohibits independent expenditure-only committees from communicating and coordinating with campaigns.

Abbi Sigler, the spokeswoman for Blackburn's campaign, denied the accusations.

"Phil Bredesen is getting desperate because a member of his staff called the President’s supporters ‘idiots’ and a Congressman he’s closely associated with threatened Marsha Blackburn’s life. While Phil Bredesen is spending his time writing ridiculous complaints, Marsha Blackburn is holding a roundtable about how best to stop human trafficking," she said.

One last thing…
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