A new poll finds Phil Bredesen beating Marsha Blackburn for Senate in Tennessee — and claiming a good chunk of Republican voters.
In one of the biggest surprises yet in the battle for control of the Senate, former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen has taken a 10-point lead over GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn in the new Middle Tennessee State University Poll. This is the latest of multiple polls giving Bredesen the lead.
But an even more significant finding — and the key driver of Bredesen's polling strength — is that 20 percent of Republican voters prefer Bredesen.
This is a staggering amount of cross-party support. To put that in perspective, exit polls showed Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate special election with only 8 percent of the Republican vote. And Republicans are the same percent of the electorate in Tennessee as in Alabama.
While the candidate contrast is not quite so extreme as in Alabama, with a prosecutor who locked up Klansmen running against an accused child molester, Tennessee is a similar case of Democrats recruiting their dream candidate and Republicans being stuck with a nightmare.
Bredesen, a businessman who served as mayor of Nashville before becoming governor, is the last Democrat to have won a statewide race in Tennessee. He remains a popular, well-recognized figure in the state and is running as a moderate. His platform calls for strengthening Obamacare and providing relief for the opioid crisis. Central to his message is his desire to fix the partisanship in Washington.
By contrast, Blackburn delights in a partisan agenda.
She helped lead a crusade in Congress to ban Medicaid patients from going to Planned Parenthood, and one of her Senate ads touting that work was so incendiary that Twitter took it down. She has promoted the "birther" conspiracy theory, says she opposes gun control because "hammers" and "hatchets" are just as dangerous, and authored a bill that wiped out President Obama's rule protecting Internet privacy.
Blackburn is so toxic, in fact, that Republican officials privately begged retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker — who currently holds this seat — to change his mind and run for another term. Blackburn responded with a campaign statement calling the Republicans trying to prevent her nomination "sexist pigs." Ultimately, Corker stuck with his decision to retire, leaving Blackburn as the presumptive nominee.
Tennessee Republicans can see the warning signs. Their own voters are abandoning them — and it could cost them the Senate.