Senate Sunday: In Tennessee, It's Former Gov. Phil Bredesen Vs. Actual Crazy Person Marsha Blackburn
Being a crazy rightwing teabagger may not be the winning formula Marsha Blackburn assumed.
Here's some encouraging news for your Senate Sunday: Former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has a ten-point polling lead over US Rep. Marsha "Why Isn't My First Name Michele?" Blackburn in the race for the Senate seat currently held by Bob Corker, who finally did one good thing in his useless Senate career last year when announced he would retire. Corker then did another good thing when he made a Twitter joke about the Trump White House being like an "adult daycare" and chaired a hearing on Trump's fitness to have the nuclear codes. Corker also voted along with fellow Republicans to kill Obamacare and pass the huge tax cut for rich fuckwads (which stood to make him richer). Corker also briefly gave Blackburn a scare in February when he mused about not retiring after all, but ultimately decided he really is finished with Senating.
But back to that polling: Where earlier polls had shown the race fairly even, or Bredesen, who was the last Democrat to win statewide office in Tennessee, up by just a little, last week's poll by Middle Tennessee State University showed Bredesen with a 10-point lead over Blackburn, with 45 percent favoring the former governor, 35 percent for Blackburn, and 17 percent undecided. That's pretty impressive in a state where 61 percent of voters chose Trump in 2016.
Also good news for Bredesen: Tennesseans generally liked him while he was governor, and in the MTSU poll, many more Republicans -- 20 percent -- said they supported Bredesen than Democrats who supported Blackburn (just five percent). Independents preferred Bredesen over Blackburn by a wide margin, 45 percent to 33 percent. Yes, yes, it's just one poll, and November is a long way off. But Bredesen is well liked by voters of both parties, and Marsha Blackburn is Marsha Blackburn.
Blackburn, you'll recall, is infamous for being proudly rightwing and stupid, because that's been enough to keep her in the House since 2003. How dumb/awful is Marsha Blackburn? Oh dear:
- In 2009, Blackburn, while insisting she certainly believed Barack Obama was legitimately elected and legally qualified to be president, nonetheless co-sponsored the "birther bill," which would have required all future presidential candidates to show their birth certificates. Yes, even the white ones, so birtherism is not racist.
- She also supported a 2009 measure to strip the EPA of the power to regulate greenhouse gases, because she worried a tax on cow farts would devastate agribusiness. That same year, she demanded that Al Gore 'fess up and admit he was getting rich off his climate activism; Gore patiently explained the money went to an educational foundation, and when Blackburn pressed him, they nearly came to fisticuffs.
- Blackburn voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Paycheck Fairness Act, and also explained that women simply don't want equal pay if Washington's telling employers to pay men and women equally, because Freedom.
- Never a fan of that Obama fellow, Blackburn very publicly derided Obama's claim that he enjoyed skeet shooting, making her the first elected Republican to accuse a black man of not carrying a gun. The White House was forced to release this verified long-form photo of Obama firing a shotgun:
- Blackburn also demanded to know whether the Boston bombers had Obamaphones, defended Americans' right to buy junk insurance, and went on CNN to "debate" climate change with Bill Nye, where she explained Nye was unqualified to talk about climate science since he's not a climate scientist. Not that she thinks climate scientists have any credibility, either.
- In 2015, Blackburn insisted that Christians in America face dire persecution, although she was unable to actually come up with any examples. She was widely mocked for the remarks, and then, hey, that was an example!
And of course, Blackburn led a Very Important Investigation into the bullshit allegations from propaganda videos claiming that Planned Parenthood trafficked in aborted baby parts, selling precious fetal tissue at yard sales (yard arms anyone?). Even with the perfectly not-screaming-MURDERER!-outside-a-clinic title the "Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives," the investigation found no evidence that Planned Parenthood was in the baby-parts business, but nonetheless recommended more investigations and ending federal support of health services at Planned Parenthood.
That was enough to at least spawn rumors that Blackburn was on Donald Trump's veep shortlist, and to spark a really stupid non-controversy when Twitter declined to take Blackburn's ad money for this fine bit of stupid in which Blackburn claimed she personally went into all the Planned Parenthoods and put a stop to PP selling off babby parts at Very Small Lots:
— Marsha Blackburn (@VoteMarsha) October 9, 2017
Twitter made it fairly clear they'd happily take her money if Blackburn's campaign removed the claim that she had "stopped the sale of baby body parts," not so much because it was a lie (it was -- you can't "stop" something that wasn't happening), but because it was "an inflammatory statement that is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction." So of course Blackburn's campaign fired off a fundraising letter complaining that Blackburn was bein' repressed:
“This is urgent. I’m being censored for telling the truth,” Blackburn wrote. “Twitter has shut down my announcement video advertising. Silicon Valley elites are trying to impose their values on us. When I talked about our legislative accomplishments to stop the sale of baby body parts, they responded by calling our ad ‘inflammatory’ and ‘negative.’”
So there's your almost-comprehensive roundup of Marsha Blackburn being "truthful."
Phil Bredesen, by comparison, is campaigning as a non-bomb-throwing guy who can work with both parties without demonizing anyone, not that he's saying anyone in this race might do something mean like this. His initial campaign ad went Full Folksy:
That "I'm applying for the job" tag line appears in other ads too, and if it's a little cheesy, it's also a nice contrast to Blackburn's typical Vote for Me Or America Will Burn approach. It'll be interesting to see whether the Vote Phil For your Senate Dad tone will last once the real nastiness gets rolling. Blackburn has backing from the usual rightwing suspects like the Club for Growth and the Koch brothers' many-armed organizations, so voters can expect a lot of culture-war attacks from Blackburn herself and from outside spending groups. As an early taste, Blackburn released an ad explaining why everyone must stand for the National Anthem; the campaign blanketed Tennessee with a radio version just before the Super Bowl. Free speech is all fine and well, but what about the children and the veterans and the flag?
In a very red state, Bredesen was a very popular Democratic governor, winning reelection in 2006 with a majority in all 95 of the state's counties. During Bredesen's tenure as governor, he was sometimes characterized -- like many red-state Democrats -- as being almost a Republican, although of course Republicans will now paint him as a dangerous liberal. Progressives were justifiably angry with him for dealing with projected cost overruns in TennCare -- the state's Medicaid alternative -- by cutting 170,000 adults from TennCare enrollment, a decision he says caused him "agony." As for the ACA, he doesn't want to see it eliminated, he want to take steps to stabilize the marketplaces and work toward healthcare that is "fairer [and] broader" than Obamacare; he plans to release more concrete proposals to do that later in the year. One thing we can count on: Blackburn isn't likely to run to the left of Bredesen on healthcare; she'll go after him for talking about fixing Obamacare instead of burning it to the ground.
On other issues, Bredesen is very much a Democrat in a red state: he supports the Second Amendment, but supports stronger background checks, although he stops short of calling for a ban on assault weapons, because did you notice he's in Tennessee? Similarly, Bredesen says he would have voted against the Great Big Tax Cut For Rich Fuckwads -- not because most of the benefits go to the One Percent, but because it was fiscally irresponsible.
In a message that's definitely tailored to chasing the crossover vote (remember, 20 percent of Rs in that MTSU poll are already inclined to support him), Bredesen says he's "not running against Donald Trump," and is instead focused on his ability to get things accomplished, which could play well in a state where Trump won 61 percent of the vote, but where the "president's" approval rating is now down to 48 percent. Blackburn's appeal to hardcore rightwing culture war issues may work great with hardcore rightwing Republicans, but may not be an advantage for the general election. A Vanderbilt University poll question on immigration suggests Tennesseans aren't quite as hungry for red meat as diehard Trumpers are on immigration, for instance:
Fifty-eight percent said illegal immigrants in the country should be allowed to stay and work, while 72 percent said they support allowing the children of illegal immigrants to be eligible for the in-state tuition rate at Tennessee colleges and universities — numbers that have increased since Trump was elected.
It's quite possible that Bredesen's calm, plays-well-with-others reputation will be just the thing to help edge Dems toward taking back the Senate this fall. You should probably send him a few Ameros, if only to help Marsha Blackburn fulfill her true destiny as a talking head on Fox News.
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter
Are you a fairly regular Wonkette reader and have had a nagging little voice for some time saying “you should throw Wonkette a buck every month”? That is called your conscience. Listen to it! It feels good!
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.