The fight for Tennessee’s U.S. Senate seat — between Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) — is one of the most crucial races in the midterm elections. The party that wins there could become the party that controls the Senate.
And lately the outlook for Blackburn, a pro-Trump lawmaker, has not been good as polling continues to show her trailing Bredesen. But if there’s one person you want on your side in a deeply pro-Trump state, it’s President Donald Trump himself.
Trump was in Tennessee on Monday to re-energize his base, which he hopes will give Blackburn the shot in the arm she needs to claim victory on Nov. 6.
During the rally in Johnson City, which sits in the middle of Trump country, the president urged the importance of Republicans retaining control of both chambers of Congress. If Republicans don't turn out in November, they risk allowing Democrats to reverse Trump's Make America Great Again agenda, Trump said.
"A vote for Marsha is really a vote for me and everything we stand for. It’s a vote for Make America Great Again," Trump said.
Blackburn echoed Trump's message.
"If you want a U.S. senator who is going to stand with the president, build the wall, cut your taxes, and make certain we take care of our men and women in uniform, I’m asking you to stand with me," she urged.
Trump, just like Blackburn, also tied Bredesen to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Trump contended that a vote for Bredesen is a vote for Schumer and a Democratic majority in Congress. Trump argued that Democrats — and by extension Bredesen — will "flood your streets with criminal aliens," withhold military spending, endanger border security, and block judicial nominations, according to Politico.
However, Bredesen vowed last week during his first televised debate with Blackburn that he would not vote for Schumer to be the Senate's Democratic leader should he win election next month. Bredesen has also vowed to support Trump when it benefits Tennesseans.
According to Knox News, the event was at capacity with 8,000 in attendance. Trump estimated that another 20,000 people were outside.
What did Bredesen say?
While he denies being a tool of the Democratic Party, Bredesen said in a pre-emptive statement Monday that he doesn't believe Trump's rally will move the needle in the Volunteer State:
I don’t think it does much for votes. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve found Tennesseans to be pretty independent-minded about that. If you’ll remember back in 2002, I ran against Van Hilleary, President [George W.] Bush came down here ... I lost count the number of times he came to Tennessee during that governor’s race. That was at a time, by the way when he was extremely popular. That was right after 9/11, his approval ratings was in the low 70 percent, which is vastly higher than it is for President Trump at the moment.
In the end, it was fine. I won even though Al Gore had lost the presidency. It wasn’t a slam dunk. It was nothing like that. The lesson to me was it's good for fundraising, but for actually driving votes and changing minds, most people in Tennessee like to think for themselves for these kinds of things. I’m much more interested in getting out there and selling myself.
According to the latest RealClear Politics polling average, Blackburn and Bredesen are in a statistical tie.