U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen's campaign chief sees 'clear path to victory'

Former Tennessee governor and U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen meets with the editorial board at the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.

NASHVILLE - Democrat Phil Bredesen's U.S. Senate campaign chief says in a memo that four months into the former Tennessee governor's campaign, "we are more convinced than ever that there is a clear path to victory ... to win in November and we're already on it."

Written by Bredesen campaign manager Bob Corney to advisers and "interested parties," the memo notes that since launching the former two-term governor's Senate campaign on Dec. 7, "we've rapidly gone from crawling to walking and, now, running" with $1.8 million in contributions and two television ads.

The memo, titled "State of the Race," comes with 200 days left until the Nov. 7 general election contest featuring Bredesen and Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. The contest is for the open seat left by retiring U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

photo Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted his support for Blackburn, saying he intends to campaign for her.

"@MarshaBlackburn is a wonderful woman who has always been there when we have needed her," Trump posted on Twitter Thursday. "Great on the Military, Border Security and Crime. Loves and works hard for the people of Tennessee. She has my full endorsement and I will be there to campaign with her!"

That follows a series of comments by Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, to Tennessee and Washington-based reporters about the formidability of Bredesen, a long-time friend. Last week, Corker said of Bredesen to The National Journal that "I certainly do not plan to be working against somebody who is a friend and who has served our state ably."

A recent survey of 600 registered voters by Middle Tennessee State University found Bredesen with a 10-percentage-point lead over Blackburn. Bredesen, a former Nashville mayor, was favored by 45 percent of voters, while 35 percent said they backed Brentwood Rep. Blackburn.

However, another NBC survey of Southern states, Survey Monkey, found that of 1,486 adults surveyed in Tennessee, only a third said they would consider voting for a Democrat this fall. The survey didn't ask those survey if they were registered voters.

In his two gubernatorial campaigns in the 2000s, Bredesen was able to pick up some Republican support.

Bredesen campaign manager Corney said in his memo that "we are running a hyper-local campaign that focuses on the issues that affect Tennesseans every day, in all corners of the state. Our campaign is reaching out to Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike - the winning formula that helped deliver all 95 counties in Bredesen's previous campaign and the bipartisan approach that made him a successful Governor."

Corney also points to efforts to get Corker to re-enter the Senate contest, saying it "created an awkward situation" for Blackburn "while others began openly questioning whether she can win."

And he touts what he calls Bredesen's "cross-over appeal."

But the Blackburn campaign and other Republicans believe Tennessee is a far more red state than Bredesen encountered either in his 2002 campaign and 2006 re-election effort. Trump won Tennessee by 60.7 percent over Democrat Hillary Clinton's 34.7 percent.

The campaign and GOP allies plan to do their best to link Bredesen to Democrats in Washington.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.