For months, Democrats have seen Tennessee as a sleeper opportunity for them to pick up a Senate seat. Sen. Bob Corker’s retirement paved the way for an open race between Rep. Marsha Blackburn and the state’s last Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen. But after Bredesen volunteered last week that he supported the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh—a statement he absolutely did not need to make, as he is not a sitting senator—the people most excited about the opportunity to elect a Democrat in a solidly red state are justifiably furious.
Campaign volunteers have been calling to cancel door-knocking and phone-banking shifts for Bredesen since his statement backing Kavanaugh, according to an internal spreadsheet maintained by the campaign and obtained by POLITICO. At least 22 volunteers so far have reached out to express frustration with the decision, according to the spreadsheet. POLITICO spoke with five who contacted the campaign to vent their anger.
“As a woman voter in Tennessee, I felt torpedoed by the statement,” Rhonda McDowell, a campaign volunteer in Memphis, told the site. McDowell, who said she’s volunteered twice a week for the past month or so, said she told the campaign’s staff that she couldn’t continue after what Bredesen said, but now she’s having some second thoughts about the impact that might have on other Democrats.
“I was so conflicted about it for a while but the more I think about these candidates who are down the ballot,” she told Politico, “the more I think I don’t want to cut off my nose to spite my face here.”
The campaign, for its part, told Politico that those disgruntled are a “small fraction” of the thousands volunteering for Bredesen. But in addition to the problems the campaign is having with volunteers, the outside Democratic group Priorities USA—although it hasn’t spent any money in his race so far—announced it wouldn’t be providing monetary support to Bredesen. And after Bredesen’s announcement, MoveOn announced it would be pulling a six-figure ad buy for Bredesen and ceasing its work for Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia if he voted for Kavanaugh. (He ultimately did, and everyone saw through it.)
To add insult to this dumb injury, Bredesen is continuing to fall in the polls; the most recent one, from CBS/YouGov, showed Blackburn with a commanding eight-point lead. It’s almost like it would have been better for Bredesen to go down losing big without having vocalized his support for an accused sexual predator, rather than to lose by a thinner margin as a coward.