The 2020 Senate Campaign: Tennessee

The Story:

Senator Lamar Alexander (R – Tenn.) has been a prominent figure in US politics for a long time: in the Senate, or in the Tennessee Governor’s mansion, or in the cabinet of President George H.W. Bush. But Alexander is now retiring from public life, and the campaign of 2020 shall decide who replaces him in the Senate.

Candidates:

It seems likely, although not certain, that the Republican Party will nominate Bill Hagerty to take the Alexander seat. Hagerty is at present the US Ambassador to Japan.

On the Democratic side, the only declared candidate for nomination for this post thus far is James Mackler, both an attorney (who has been both a prosecutor and a defense attorney) and a twitter denizen. In that latter capacity Mackler has tweeted in a way that signals a campaign theme: “There’s common ground to fix our bridges, roads, & invest in 21st century infrastructure.”

The Thing to Know:

President Trump has endorsed Hagerty. One former Governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen, has endorsed Mackler. A campaign between Hagerty and Mackler next fall could draw on national reserves of money and receive nationwide attention.  It could in other words, become the next “Sen. Cruz versus O’Rourke.”

Tennessee’s change in leadership will pull it further to the right | Opinion

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Jack Daniels Music City Midnight: New Years Eve at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in Nashville Nashville Tennessean

While still Republican, the state’s new leaders are considerably more conservative than previous iterations.

Tennessee’s political leadership is in the final stages of reshaping through the largest shakeup in modern history. While still Republican, the state’s new leaders are considerably more conservative than previous iterations.

Gov.-elect Bill Lee, U.S. Sen.-elect Marsha Blackburn and state House Speaker-elect Glen Casada, all from Williamson County, could take the state into mostly uncharted territory. Meanwhile, the State Senate may find itself in the potentially uncomfortable role of moderator.

Supported by conservative groups and President Trump, while privately repudiated by many within more moderate circles, Blackburn stunned politicos with her double-digit defeat of former Democrat Gov. Phil Bredesen, who was relying on moderate Republicans and independents to carry him to Washington.

Most believed the race would be within a few points, but Blackburn received a conservative mandate from Tennessee voters.

Blackburn poised to become a leader

Not only is Blackburn the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee, she’s also the most conservative statewide office holder the state has elected in modern times.

Furthermore, with Sen. Lamar Alexander’s announcement that he’ll retire at the end of his term, Blackburn will become the senior senator from Tennessee. This means she’ll set the tone on the federal level, regardless of who emerges as the victor in the 2020 Republican Primary.

Lee’s administration will be interesting to watch. He was elected in a stunning victory as a conservative outsider and businessman in the image of President Trump, but with more tact and grace. On all accounts, Lee doesn’t just talk the talk, he also walks it.

Lee is…

The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Midterms Aftermath

A supporter listens as Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Stacey Abrams on November 7, 2018

Democrats woke up to a lukewarm victory. Buoyed by the suburban vote, they retook the House and won victories in Rust-Belt states that helped send Donald Trump to the White House in 2016. They also saw important wins in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, all states key to Trump’s 2016 victory.

But Republicans won at least three close races in the Senate, setting up a majority that will allow them to have a major impact on the federal judiciary. Republican candidates also defeated several Democratic rising stars, including Florida gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum and Texas’s Beto O’Rourke.

Here’s what else to keep in mind:

Too Close to Call: Votes are still being tallied in several states. In Montana, Democratic incumbent Senator Jon Tester’s fate is undecided. In Arizona, Republican Martha McSally holds a narrow lead over Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. And in Georgia, Stacey Abrams could still force Brian Kemp into a runoff in December if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote. The Mississippi Senate race is similarly headed into a runoff.

Notables: Early voting by young adults was up 188 percent compared to 2014. The “diploma divide” is widening: 61 percent of non-college-educated white voters cast their ballots for Republicans, compared to 45 percent of college-educated whites. An unprecedented number of women will enter Congress come January, over 80 of them Democrats. Republican Marsha Blackburn made history as Tennessee’s first female Senator.

We’re sending you this special edition of the Politics & Policy email newsletter for the midterms. Let us know what you think here. Like what you see? Forward this email to a friend, or let them know they can subscribe here.

The Blue Wave That Wasn’t

(Illustration by Thanh Do / The Atlantic)

Republicans expanded their slim Senate majority
“Democratic Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana were defeated by conservative challengers who leaned heavily on President Donald Trump’s enduring popularity in their deeply red states. And in Texas and Tennessee, neither the insurgent energy behind Beto O’Rourke nor the middle-of-the-road appeal of former Governor Phil Bredesen could overcome the Republican lean of the electorate.” → Read on.

Democrats grab some power back in the House
“The outcome is in line with early predictions, though early returns Tuesday suggested that the scale of Democratic victories might be smaller than anticipated, and some pundits declared the hope of a blue wave dead.” →…

CNN projection: Republican Marsha Blackburn wins Tennessee Senate seat

CNN projection: Republican Marsha Blackburn wins Tennessee Senate seat

CNN projects that Tennessee voters will elect Republican Marsha Blackburn to the US Senate, defeating Democrat Phil Bredesen. Blackburn becomes the first woman elected to the Senate from Tennessee. #Blackburn #Tennessee #CNN #News

Midterm 2018: Volatility has become the new normal in American politics

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.

President Donald Trump’s supporters cheer as he arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Nov. 4, 2018.Evan Vucci / AP

All of the attention on control of Congress, the individual races, and President Donald Trump’s campaign activity has obscured a much bigger story at play in American politics — we’re on the cusp of the House changing hands for a third time in the last 12 years (2006, 2010, 2018?).

Another way to look at it: This could very well be the fourth-straight change midterm election, where at least one chamber of Congress flips (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018?).

We haven’t seen this level of volatility since after World War II, when control of the House changed hands several times in the 1940s and 1950s. And like after World War II and the Great Depression, this country is in the midst of a political realignment that has created this volatility. The contested 2000 presidential election. 9/11. The Iraq War. The Great Recession. Obama. Trump.

We don’t know if Democrats will win control of Congress in tonight’s election, although they’re the strong favorites to regain the House. But we do know how volatile — and divided — our politics have become.

And whichever party wins tonight will have just won a battle and not the war in these politically volatile times.

Who made the better bet: Democrats, with independents? Or the GOP, with the base?

For all of tonight’s central questions (Which party controls Congress? Does Trump get rebuked or rewarded? Just how big is that gender gap?), this might be the most fascinating one of all: What was the better political bet in 2018 — playing to the base or to the middle?

Trump and GOP strategists made it all about that base; just see Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh at last night’s rally with Trump in Missouri. But Democrats — especially in the Senate races in red/purple states like Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, Montana and Tennessee — focused their messages on the middle of the electorate.

Maybe the best example of this base-versus-middle divide is the 50-50 Senate race in Arizona between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema (whose message was aimed at the middle) and Republican Martha McSally (who was playing more to the Trump base in this traditional GOP state).

Be sure to see how independents break in Arizona and nationally. If Democrats are winning them by more than 10 points — our NBC/Marist poll of Arizona had Sinema up more than 20 points among indies — it’s hard to see how they aren’t going to win across the country.

On the other hand, if those independent margins are smaller and if GOP turnout and enthusiasm are through the roof, then that base approach will have been the smarter play

One of the hallmarks of Trump’s two years in office is how he’s focused almost exclusively on his base — the 40 percent to 45 percent of voters who approve of his job — at the expense of the rest of the electorate, including the middle.

Does the middle still exist in American politics? Or is it all about that base? We’ll find out tonight.

Which Democrats have more success: The ones who played to the middle? Or the ones who boldly played to the base?

Here’s a related question on our mind: Which Democrats will have more success — the Dems in red/purple states who played more to the middle like Sinema in Arizona, Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Phil Bredesen in Tennessee?

Or the Dems in red/purple states who made bolder appeals to their base — Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Andrew Gillum in Florida and Beto O’Rourke in Texas?

Race by race, here’s the Democrats’ path to winning back the House

As for the battle for the House, we’re re-upping our road map how Democrats get to the net 23 seats they need to win control of Congress:

The Democratic Defense (6)

First thing’s first: Democrats aren’t playing defense very many places, and they can probably afford to (and expect to) lose a few seats. Here are six they currently hold and are most likely to lose. (In order of final poll closing time — all times ET)

NH-1 (8pm): OPEN — previously held by Carol Shea-Porter (D). Eddie Edwards (R) v. Chris Pappas (D). Seat went 48-46 for Trump.

PA-14 (8pm): OPEN — previously held by Conor Lamb (D) who is running in a new district. Guy Reschenthaler (R) v. Bibiana Boerio (D). Redistricted. New seat estimated to be Trump +29. (Note: Due to redistricting, this is expected to flip)

MN-1 (9pm): OPEN — previously held by Tim Walz (D). Jim Hagedorn (R) v. Dan Feehan (D). Seat went 53-38 for Trump.

MN-8 (9pm): OPEN —previously held by Rick Nolan (D). Pete Stauber (R) v. Joe Radinovich (D). Seat went 54-38 for Trump.

NV-3 (10pm): OPEN — previously held by Jacky Rosen (D). Danny Tarkanian (R) v. Susie Lee (D). Seat went 48-47 for Trump.

NV-4 (10pm): OPEN — previously held by Ruben Kihuen (D). Crescent Hardy (R) v. Steven Horsford (D). 50-45 for Clinton.

The Most Probable Flips (15)

Strategists on both sides of the aisle believe that these races are most likely to flip from Republican to Democratic. Democrats aim to get…

Live: Trump-backed Marsha Blackburn speaks after Tennessee Senate win

Live: Trump-backed Marsha Blackburn speaks after Tennessee Senate win

Watch here LIVE: Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn gives her victory speech after beating former Democratic Governor of Tennessee Phil Bredesen. Bredesen was famously endorsed by singer Taylor Swift, while Blackburn had the backing of the president.

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Blackburn widens lead over Bredesen despite Swift plea

Blackburn widens lead over Bredesen despite Swift plea

Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn up double digits over Senate opponent Phil Bredesen after pop star Taylor Swift shared her support for the Democrat.

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Taylor Swift’s decision to ‘walk the political plank’ was the right choice

Last Saturday I attended the Taylor Swift concert at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas. It was the second of back-to-back nightly shows at the colossal venue. It was a dazzler of high-octane music and whizbang stagecraft. But it was hardly one of politics.

There were no “Beto for Senate” or “Ted Cruz 2018” signs that dot the leafy yards of Preston Hollow, a Dallas neighborhood. I didn’t see any red “Make America Great Again” hats but plenty of leotards, headbands, and unicorn costumes.

The only thing that Swift said that could be remotely interpreted as political was her declaration that these days everyone is looking for something real in their lives, perhaps a rebuke of the falsehoods that pervade our national political conversation.

The very next day, with the U.S.-leg of the Reputation Stadium Tour behind her, she posted on Instagram a cri de couer about the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. She brushed aside previous criticism that she had been apolitical, “Due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now.”

Being the victim of groping and watching the rise of Donald Trump, who has bragged about assaulting women, may have provided sufficient grist to speak out.

“It’s important that Swift spoke up because her voice can make a difference. Only 56 percent of the voting-age population actually voted in 2016.”

Later in her post, Swift named names, saying she can’t back Marsha Blackburn, the Republican who is running for US Senate because of the many anti-woman measures the Tennessee representative supports. Swift offered a full-throated endorsement of Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper, who are candidates for the US Senate and House of Representatives respectively from Tennessee, where the pop star votes.

It’s important that Swift spoke up because her voice can make a difference. Only 56 percent of the voting-age population actually voted in 2016. And historically, turnout of young…

Taylor Swift no longer silent on politics, endorses two Tennessee Democrats for midterms

Midterms, look what you made Taylor Swift do.

In a rare move, singer Taylor Swift has weighed in on politics in a major way, endorsing Tennessee Democrats Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper, who are running for Senate and House of Representatives, respectively.

By her own admission, Swift has been “reluctant” to voice her political opinions in the past, but, she said in an Instagram post, “due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now.”

“I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country,” she wrote. “I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country…