As President Trump travels to Tennessee, his presence is expected to give a boost to Senate hopeful Marsha Blackburn.
The Republican congressman is vying for her party’s nomination to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican. Blackburn and former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen have emerged as their parties’ leaders and are expected to face off in a general election that is considered a toss-up by Fox News.
Bredesen is leading Blackburn by 5 points, according to Real Clear Politics’ polling average.
Trump is traveling to Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday to raise campaign cash for Blackburn, the GOP’s leading U.S. Senate hopeful in Tennessee, and headline a rally with his most loyal supporters. The Tennessee campaign is among several races crucial to Trump’s plans to maintain control of the Senate, where Republicans are defending a narrow two-seat majority.
Trump won Tennessee with more than 60 percent of the vote in the 2016 presidential election.
Primaries are scheduled for Aug. 2.
Read on for a look at the top candidates.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, 65, has served in Congress since 2003.
Blackburn was the first woman in the state to win a congressional seat without following a husband in the post, her U.S. House biography states. She serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Trump has already endorsed Blackburn, calling her a “wonderful woman who has always been there when we needed her.” He praised her work on military issues and border security.
Blackburn served on Trump’s transition team and has not shied away from embracing the president. She is one of the lawmakers who signed onto a letter nominating the president for the Nobel Peace Prize. She’s called herself a “hardcore, card-carrying Tennessee conservative.”
“Things are shaping up so well” for her Senate campaign, Blackburn told Fox News, adding that she’s excited about the “momentum.” She said she’s confident that a “great red wall” in Tennessee will prevent a “blue wave” of Democrats taking over her state in the midterm elections.
Aside from Trump, Blackburn has also gotten an assist from the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a nonprofit advocacy group. AFP thanked Blackburn in a full-page ad in The Tennessean over Memorial Day weekend for voting against a $1.3 trillion spending bill earlier this year.
If elected, Blackburn said on her campaign website she would focus on anti-abortion and pro-gun rights issues. Additionally, her focus would be on veterans and supporting Trump’s “immigration ban.”
Prior to her tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, Blackburn served as a state senator and chair of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission, according to Memphis Magazine.
She is a graduate of Mississippi State University.
Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is vying to become the first Democrat to win a Senate campaign in The Volunteer State since Al Gore in 1990.
Bredesen, 74, is not hyper-partisan and has promised in campaign ads that he is not “running against” the president.
“I’ve been upset with what’s going on in Washington, D.C. It’s been going on for a while; it’s not just Trump or anything like that,” Bredesen told the Johnson City Press. “Most particularly, it just seems [Washington, D.C.] has got to a place where nothing gets done, everyone stands around and yells at the other person.”
Bredesen was first elected governor in 2002, having served as Nashville’s mayor before that. He led Tennessee until 2011. When he won re-election in 2006, Bredesen became the first governor to win all 95 counties in Tennessee, according to his campaign website, which also touts his penchant for working across the aisle on legislative issues. Additionally, Bredesen created a health care management company.
Outgoing Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican, gave a boost to Bredesen in the race as he said the former governor is sure to appeal to at least some GOP voters.
"He was a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good business person,” Corker told reporters in April. “Look, I’m not going to campaign against someone who I’ve been friends with and worked with.”
Bredesen has said he does “well” with those he called “economic Republicans, the more traditional-minded Republicans,” given his business background.
“Bob Corker is a perfect example of what I’d call an economic Republican,” he told the Johnson City Press. “He’s sensible, out of the business world and is focused on getting things done. I think there are a lot of people who have voted for him, who still would and who I believe I can attract.”
If elected, Bredesen, who graduated from Harvard University with a physics degree, would be one of the richest members in Congress, The Tennessean reported. Recent financial disclosures showed he has between $88.9 million and $358 million in total investment assets from January 2017 to February 2018.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.