Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn is seeking a second term after winning a 2018 open seat battle against former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. Her 11-point victory solidified how difficult it is for even popular red-state Democratic governors to break through in solidly Republican states.

Blackburn became the Volunteer State’s first female senator, and her ascendance also marked a departure from Tennessee’s tradition of more centrist, pragmatic Republican lawmakers like Bob Corker, whom she succeeded; Lamar Alexander, who retired the following cycle; and Howard Baker, Bill Frist and Fred Thompson. In contrast, she has cut an uncompromising conservative profile and makes frequent Fox News appearances. The last Democrat that Tennessee elected to the Senate was soon-to-be Vice President Al Gore in 1990.

Tennessee went for former President Trump by 23 points in 2020 and by 26 points in 2016, so this 2024 race isn’t anywhere atop Democratic target lists and remains squarely in the Solid Republican category. In fact, Bredesen’s 2006 reelection as governor was the last time a Democrat won statewide in Tennessee (which has no other statewide elected officials).


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