The Christian Science Monitor

In Tennessee Senate race, a clear test of centrism vs. ideology

Mae Estes (2nd from l.) poses for a photo with fellow musicians after a performance at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct.18. Ms. Estes praised pop star Taylor Swift for using her platform to urge her followers to vote. Ms. Swift broke her political silence to endorse the Democratic candidate, Phil Bredesen. Source: Francine Kiefer/The Christian Science Monitor

To watch Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen deliver a stump speech before a lunchtime Tennessee crowd, is to wonder whether one is looking at a future where US senators rediscover congeniality and bipartisanship – or at the past, at a throwback politician who is out of step with today’s take-no-prisoners, tribal approach to governing.

This grandfatherly figure could legitimately be called “old school,” and that’s the point. In this competitive contest in a red state, Democrats have in Mr. Bredesen a self-made health care executive who went on to become a respected politician with a history of coalition building – first as mayor of Nashville, and then as a popular two-term governor. He’s running against Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican firebrand who totes a pistol in her purse and has attached herself to President Trump like Velcro.

It is the clearest test of centrism vs. ideology among the competitive Senate races, say analysts.

Certainly, that’s how Bredesen is framing his message, in a state Democrats hope to flip. Sure, he talks about issues like health care, but you won’t find an “issues” tab on his campaign website. For him, it’s all about governing style.

Voters have “a very clear choice between two very different styles and very different ideas about what governing is about,” Bredesen told enthusiastic supporters at a

A ‘policy bludgeon’The Swift factor

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