The campaign for the open Senate seat in Tennessee is getting as much attention as any contest in the country.
And that’s not only because it’s the one race where Taylor Swift is taking sides. The pop music icon is backing Phil Bredesen in her adopted home state.
He’s among just a handful of Democrats with a viable shot at taking a Senate seat away from the GOP.
But Swift’s high-profile endorsement — along with Bredesen’s long record of soft-spoken independence from the party line and his status as a Washington outsider — still might not be enough.
That’s because about 61 percent of Tennesseans voted for Donald Trump two years ago. Almost as many in the state approve of his presidency now.
And Marsha Blackburn, with her firebrand style of tea party conservatism, has positioned herself as close to Trump as any of this year’s Republican Senate candidates.
Blackburn and Bredesen are running to succeed Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a frequent Trump critic, who’s stepping aside after a dozen years.
Both candidates are political veterans. A solar power executive, Bredesen was highly popular as governor for two terms, ending in 2011, and before that was mayor of Nashville. Blackburn was a department store executive and state senator before winning a House seat for the Nashville suburbs 16 years ago.
And the two don’t disagree on everything. Most notably, Bredesen says he would have voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, concluding the judge was fully qualified and there wasn’t enough evidence to support the sexual allegations against him.
Blackburn was enthusiastic about Kavanaugh all along.
At the same time they agree on Trump’s high court pick, though, they both disagree with his trade policies. Blackburn now says his steel and aluminum tariffs are bad for the state’s farmers and automakers. Bredesen has been saying much the same all year.
And on immigration, both favor legislation for so-called Dreamers — young people brought to the country illegally as children. And both favor a big boost in border security. But while Blackburn wants to help Trump build a wall along the Mexican border, Bredesen says there are better high-tech, less expensive options.
There’s still plenty they disagree about. Reducing taxes was the reason Blackburn got into politics and she’s a passionate fan of the Trump tax cut. Bredesen says the first step to needed reduction in the deficit should be closing corporate tax loopholes.
Blackburn says Obamacare should be totally repealed and replaced with a more free market system. Bredesen says he’s come around to supporting much of the Affordable Care Act but that it can stand some fixing.
Blackburn boasts of keeping a handgun in her purse and opposes new gun controls. Bredesen is in favor of new background checks for would-be buyers at gun shows.
Blackburn says businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. Bredesen says that’s not right.
And this looks to be the only prominent Senate race in the country where net neutrality is an issue. Blackburn is chairman of the House panel with jurisdiction over the internet, and she’s worked for years to pass legislation that critics say would undermine equal treatment of all content online. Bredesen says the web should be treated like a utility, and so he’s committed to net neutrality.