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Tennessee Waltz: How Marsha Blackburn Can Stop Phil Bredesen

Normally red Tennessee of all places -- a state Donald Trump won by 26 points -- is very much in play in the 2018 Senate race. Phil Bredesen -- a popular former governor opposing also popular Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn -- is running a smart, stealthy campaign.  Democrats and their media friends are naturally pleased.  New York magazine details the strategy:

....Bredesen’s opponents are making sure everyone knows about the “D” next to his name. So far, though, he’s been careful to fly far underneath the national radar, garnering a tiny fraction of the headlines and online virality surrounding someone like Beto O’Rourke, the Texas congressman running a long-shot bid to take out Senator Ted Cruz. That’s Bredesen’s plan to avoid the national party’s stain. He has proceeded with a purposeful calmness, quietly cementing front-runner status in the Senate race — both in polls and among prognosticators — even as national Democrats cultivate a campaign that’s much louder, more combative, and more fractious.

In other words,  Bredesen is telling Tennesseans he will govern in the Senate just as he did in the governor's office back home -- as a pragmatic centrist businessman .

This is a lie, although Bredesen may not realize he's telling it (or is conveniently ignoring the obvious). In fact, it's impossible.  Even ten minutes watching the Kavanaugh hearings reminds us of what we already know.  We live in an era of the most extreme partisanship.  There are no middle of the roaders in the Senate.  It's not allowed, virtually verboten, especially on the Democratic side.

Whatever Bredesen is thinking, he will arrive in D.C. to caucus with Chuck Schumer's party, unless it's by then Bernie Sanders' party -- even more extreme.  He will have to toe the party line or be ostracized.  Forget plum committee assignments, campaign help, etc.  Conform or go home.

Is Bredesen strong enough to fight that?  Even those few Senate Dems (Manchin, Heitkamp, Donnelly) who might do something as simple as vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh -- a man who apparently agreed with liberal nominee Merrick Garland 93% of the time -- hide their votes until they are certain it won't be held against them by their party.  Did Manchin vote for something significant like the tax cut bill, healthcare or immigration reform, despite cajoling by the president and others? In the end, no.  Neither did the Heitkamp or Donnelly. Would Bredesen?  Even less likely. It's party line über alles.  The only place to find Profiles in Courage these days are on the remainder shelves.

Typing this at my new desk in Nashville, it seems to me Blackburn has not done a good enough job of explaining this situation to the Tennessee public.  Yes, she has a pungent television ad with Trump saying that he needs her vote in the Senate, but that is not enough to counteract the reputation of a man who was twice governor and twice mayor of this city.