Reverberations continue to sound in Tennessee's U.S. Senate race following President Donald Trump's trip last week to Nashville, where the president first attended a private fundraiser for Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn and then derided Democrat Phil Bredesen at a campaign-style rally downtown.
During his speech, the president attacked Bredesen repeatedly, among other things calling the former Tennessee governor a "very liberal Democrat — I've never heard of this guy — who is he?"
Trump then called him an "absolute total tool" of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., adding he specifically was recruited by Schumer with the approval of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
And the president then referred to Bredesen as "Phil whatever- the-hell-his-name-is" before settling on calling him "Philbert."
Blackburn, who is seeking to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Chattanooga Republican, soon capitalized on the event, posting a political greatest hits video on YouTube of Trump's remarks, complete with titles to drive home various points.
"Phil Bredesen. Hand-picked by Schumer. Not Tennesseans," reads a line below a photo of Bredesen along with the faces of Schumer and Pelosi at the end of the 90-second video.
Bredesen campaign chief Bob Corney, meanwhile, also used Trump's remarks, albeit in an email fundraising appeal. Referring to Trump saying he didn't know who Bredesen was as well as the "Philbert" remark, Corney said the "good news is that Tennesseans do know Phil Bredesen — all 95 counties voted for him the last time he ran.
"Here's what Tennesseans know to be true," Corney continued. "Governor Bredesen has a track- record of working with Democrats and Republicans to get things done for the people of Tennessee — whether it was balancing budgets, saving the state's Medicaid program, or reining in out-of-control spending."
Calling the remarks "hyper-partisan attacks," Corney said Bredesen "has made it clear that if President Trump proposes something that's good for Tennessee, then he'll support it. Likewise, if the president suggests something that's bad for Tennesseans, then he'll oppose it."
Later, the Tennessean published portions of a leaked recording of Trump's remarks at the high-dollar fundraiser for Blackburn where he called Bredesen "tough."
"It's close. It's very close," the president was quoted saying. "She was down by a little bit a couple of months ago, now she's pulled even. We're in a very even race." Trump also said Bredesen is "weaker on crime, he's weaker on borders. He's always going to vote for the Democrats."
That prompted a second Bredesen campaign email with campaign Communications Director Lara Zapata saying Trump is "exactly right" about the race being close. "In the face of special interest attacks and dark money groups pouring millions into this race, Governor Bredesen has kept his focus on Tennessee," Zapata stated in the email, which included yet another fundraising appeal.
Polls have shown a tight race so far.
' Among those attending last week's rally was Corker, who has had a sometimes-tumultuous relationship with Trump and also has said although he backs Blackburn and has contributed to her campaign, he won't be attacking Bredesen, whom he considers a friend.
As Trump acknowledged various elected Republicans at the event, a number of rally attendees booed when the president mentioned Corker.
Corker first met then-Nashville Mayor Bredesen while Corker was state finance commissioner and they worked together to get the NFL's then-Houston Oilers franchise to move to Nashville. While Bredesen was governor and Corker Chattanooga's mayor, the two worked on getting the county's Enterprise South site ready for a big tenant.
Bredesen and Corker, after Corker's 2006 election to the Senate, also joined forces with local officials to successfully persuade Volkswagen to build its lone U.S. assembly plant in Chattanooga.
Among other things, Corker has said Bredesen "served our state ably" while governor and would undoubtedly attract some GOP voters.
' Meanwhile, the Tennessee Democratic Party is seizing on favorable comments made by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann to Nashville-based WKRN-TV's Washington Bureau regarding Bredesen.
"He had a very strong fiscal relationship with a lot of the business people in the state, and he did a good job as governor," Fleischmann said.
But the Ooltewah Republican, who has endorsed Congresswomman Blackburn, also said Blackburn's values are in line with Tennesseeans, telling the station "we need to elect someone like Marsha Blackburn, who will stand with the president and with the Republican agenda."
' A new 30-second TV spot from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee's campaign touts the Williamson County businessman as the "only non-politician" in the race.
The ad, slated to begin airing statewide this week, features Lee, whose family owned Lee Company provides construction, HVAC and other building services.
"Bill Lee is a leader," a narrator says as slow- motion images of Lee wearing a hard hat, safety goggles and a yellow vest walking through a multi-story building construction site roll across the screen. "He is the only conservative outsider. The only non-politician running for governor."
The ad shifts to Lee in an office setting interacting with workers as the annoucer says "he's built an incredibly successful company with over 1,200 employees. Bill's been voted the most admired CEO in Nashville and his Lee Company was named the best place to work in Middle Tennessee.
"Tennessee must have a leader as governor," the announcer says. "In a field of politicians, there is only one, Bill Lee."
The Lee campaign's "conservative outsider" theme is also being used by a Super PAC in radio ads that began airing last week.
Other major Republican candidates in the GOP's Aug. 2 primary are U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, Knoxville businessman and former state economic commissioner Randy Boyd and Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville.
' Black, meanwhile, made national news last week after the Huffington Post obtained an audio clip of her speaking with a group of ministers where she linked violent movies and pornography to the nation's mass school shootings. Black also cited mental illness and "deterioration of the family," but not guns, for the massacres.
"Pornography. It's available," Black said. "It's available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store. Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there's pornography there. All of this is available without parental guidance, and I think that is a big part of the root cause that we see so many young people that have mental illness caught in these places."
Black campaign spokesman Chris Hartline said Black's reference to pornography was an example of a larger breakdown in family values, adding the congresswoman "talks about how she believes mental health and the breakdown in social structures and family values are root causes of violence in our communities," Hartline said.
Meanwhile, The Daily Beast followed up Saturday with its own story headlined "Porn Industry Fires Back at Rep. Diane Black: Don't Blame Us for School Shootings."
The article quotes among others "award- winning adult star" Alana Evans, who called it irresponsible to blame pornography for school shootings.
"In essence, she's saying my job is causing children to murder other children and yet it didn't have that effect on my kids, who are doing really well," Evans, who said she is a mother of three, including a U.S. Marine, was quoted saying. Other porn stars weighed in as well.
Taking note of the article in a tweet, Black spokesman Hartline had this to say: "I wonder if 'Opposed by the porn industry' will fit on bumper stickers."
' In Tennessee Democrats' gubernatorial primary, state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh has picked up the endorsement of members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators.
Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, said in a statement that veteran Ripley Democrat Fitzhugh's "expertise in finance and budgeting has given him a solid understanding of our state's financial picture and will serve him well as the leader of this state. A great man, a great leader and an outstanding State Representative — he is the most qualified to be our next Governor."
Fitzhugh served as chairman of the House Finance Committee when Democrats controlled the chamber. The rural banker and attorney faces former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean in Democrats' Aug. 2 primary.
' Dean, meanwhile, has picked up an endorsement from a political action committee operated by former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a 2016 candidate for president.
The "Win Back Your State PAC" endorsement brings aid in recruiting and training potential campaign staff, a contribution of at least $1,000, promotion on the group's website and O'Malley's offer to come to a state to campaign on a candidate's behalf.
In a Facebook post, Dean said he was honored to have O'Malley's support and added Tennessee's next governor "needs to be a creative problem solver who is going to find common ground for the entire state. Governor O'Malley is working all across the country to make sure that happens."
Compiled by Andy Sher.