Struggling GOP Senate candidate could lose women by clinging to Trump


If Rep. Marsha Blackburn thinks campaigning with Trump will boost her chances in the Tennessee Senate race, she might want to take another look at the polls.

Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn is running for Senate in a state Trump won by 26 points in 2016. Based on that margin, the GOP likely never thought Trump would have to be dispatched back to the state a year and a half later to save her campaign.

But on Tuesday night, Trump will be in Nashville desperately trying to boost Blackburn's chances in what ought to be an easy Republican win.

A big part of the GOP's problem is Trump's weak standing among women voters, even in a Republican outpost like Tennessee.

"While 59 percent of male Tennessee voters approve of Trump, only 48 percent of female voters do, according to a Vanderbilt University poll earlier this month," the Washington Post reports.

As for Blackburn, just 46 percent of women in the state view her favorably, compared to 72 percent of women who approve of her Democratic opponent, Phil Bredesen.

And the numbers only get worse for her. The last six polls of the race have all shown a notable lead for Bredesen over Blackburn in the deeply red state. In fact, a Democrat hasn't won a statewide race in Tennessee in 12 years — and Bredesen was the last one to pull it off.

Blackburn is among the few high-profile Republican women running for office in 2018. Saddled with a misogynist and philanderer as the leader of their party, many Republican women are actually being told to sit out this cycle.

“Trump’s poor performance among women poses a pronounced threat to his re-election ambitions,” RealClear Politics noted in March.

Meanwhile, Republicans are only being forced to defend the Tennessee Senate seat because incumbent Bob Corker, after butting heads with Trump and being on the receiving end of his childish ridicule, decided to retire.

The GOP was so worried about Blackburn's chances that it launched a concerted effort to convince Corker to un-retire.

Corker refused.

He also refused to campaign against Bredesen, and could not give a strong answer when asked by reporters why he was endorsing Blackburn.

This GOP's openly defensive posture stands in stark contrast to just one year ago, when Republicans were seen as being poised to pick up additional Senate seats to pad their slim majority. That’s because so many Democrats running for re-election are in states that Trump won by wide margins in 2016, such as West Virginia, Indiana, and Missouri.

Republicans also enjoy a sizable advantage mathematically because the party only has to defend nine seats in November, while Democrats have to defend 26.

Yet since Trump was elected, Republicans have lost statewide elections in New Jersey, Virginia, and Alabama, as well as congressional seats in some of the most pro-Trump districts in America.

Further, new polling shows Republicans are trailing by double digits in the West Virginia Senate race, a state Trump won by 42 points in 2016.

All of these numbers, combined with the growing rejection of Trump by Tennessee women, makes it an odd choice for Blackburn to buddy up to him on the campaign trail. But faced with Bredesen's rise, she's apparently desperate enough to try anything.