The stage is set in Tennessee for two political races – for the U.S. Senate and Tennessee governor — that are certain to attract national attention and likely break records for amounts of money spent.

For the Senate seat now held by Bob Corker, veteran Congresswoman (and Brentwood resident)
Marsha Blackburn from the GOP squares off against former Nashville mayor and former Tennessee
governor Phil Bredesen on the Democratic side.

This one is the more pivotal of the two races in that it could help shift control of the Senate where the Republicans now have a slim majority. President Trump has already made a visit to Tennessee to voice his support for Blackburn and portray Bredesen as an out of touch liberal.

You can count on the national Democratic party and independent PACs to throw massive amounts of support and money toward Bredesen to try and help shift that aforementioned Senate majority, and you can expect the same for Blackburn from the national GOP and right-leaning PACS.

Much is at stake here.

Her conservative record is what Blackburn is banking on to get her to the Senate, proudly aligning herself with President Trump’s agenda and hoping Tennesseans, who voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, will do the same for her in November.

Bredesen is also running on his record, but with a different approach. In his commercials he tells us he is not running against President Trump and will go along with him when it is good for Tennessee
and oppose him when it is not. He touts his history of bipartisanship and his ability to make deals and bring people together.

In a conservative state, he is painting himself as a moderate and counting on independents and potential crossover Republicans to see that as a good thing.

How nasty it will get remains to be seen, but I think we can be assured moderate will equal liberal in Blackburn’s playbook, and we should not be surprised to see her camp using the L word to describe Bredesen before long.

On the other hand, Blackburn’s handlers might be thinking long and hard about going negative after the outcome of the Republican primary election for its nominee for governor.

Williamson County businessman and political newcomer Bill Lee won that race handily and the
consensus seems to be the negative ads run by Randy Boyd and Diane Black backfired on them and had much to do with Lee’s surprising win.

Boyd and Black, considered the frontrunners, went negative against each other and also against Lee. Lee responded to the negativity in an “aw shucks” kind of way and refused to get down and dirty with them. The result? A strong victory for Lee.

For whatever reason, House Speaker Beth Harwell’s campaign for the Republican nomination for
governor never gained traction. From the beginning polls indicated she was behind and she finished in fourth place.

To be sure, like the other GOP contenders, Lee presented himself as a man of faith who supports the Second Amendment, two values that were consistent among all the Republican candidates and ones apparently important to many Tennessee voters. But in the end, many believe Boyd’s and Black’s attacks, as well as Lee’s likeability factor, gave him the edge.

It’s logical to assume the Blackburn folks will take note and be careful with the negative lingo in the Senate race. After all, Bredesen was an extremely popular mayor and governor and now, let’s face it,
he’s coming across as everyone’s grandpa – a grandpa who still has a lot of life left in him and, like Lee, is just plain likeable. Blackburn will want to be careful before she goes attacking him.

As for the governor’s race, Lee is currently riding a wave of popularity and goodwill as he basks in his recent primary victory. His former opponents have endorsed him and Republicans are once again (seemingly) united.

His general election opponent, Democrat Karl Dean, another former Nashville mayor, was a shoo-in to win the Democratic primary, but Lee’s victory was a surprise. Dean definitely has some ground to gain.

I’m guessing the governor’s race will be a fairly civil affair. Lee has seen how being a good guy worked for him in the primary, so why would he change that approach now? Dean will probably follow his lead. The candidates are likely to point out their differences but refrain from going too negative.

Dean can run on his record as Nashville mayor while Lee can continue to show himself as a political outsider (which is very much in vogue these days) who has run a successful business, a skill he can easily transfer to running a state.

My prediction is a close race between Bredesen and Blackburn, with Bredesen getting those crossover and independent voters, thus winning the U.S. Senate seat and possibly tilting that body to a Democratic majority.

In the governor’s race, I expect Lee to continue the momentum he built in the GOP primary and
coast fairly easily into the governor’s mansion. So yes, I’m predicting a split between the parties in the two races.

That’s what I think, and if you were to look back over the other political prognostications I’ve made over the past seven years in this space, you would see I have a poor record. So if you happen to be
affiliated with any of these campaigns and you’re reading this (not likely, but I can humor myself), you can take my opinion for what it’s worth, which is very little.

How will I vote? As always, that will stay between God and me. I’ll tell my wife if she asks.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at

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