When Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker elected to forego re-election next year, party officials and power players started scrambling to determine who would step up and run for that vacant seat. Although Senate Democrats have a much more difficult map to contend with in the upcoming midterm cycle -- including defending ten seats in Trump-won states -- Republicans may have their hands full in places like Nevada and Arizona. An unpopular president and a disillusioned base (or deeply flawed nominees) could potentially put other "safe" seats in play, too, particularly if there are battles to be waged over unexpected vacancies. One name that surfaced early and often in the Volunteer State was that of the sitting governor, Bill Haslam. Especially after former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning dispelled rumors that he was considering taking a stab at the seat, Haslam was considered by many to be the party's clearly preferred option. But earlier today, the state's chief executive released a succinct statement announcing that he would not seek to replace Corker in Congress' upper chamber:
My statement on the 2018 U.S. Senate race. pic.twitter.com/1pLR0MhSEd— Gov. Bill Haslam (@BillHaslam) October 5, 2017
Shortly thereafter, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn put out an online video unveiling her Senate candidacy:
As you can see in this red meat-filled clip, she's running against the Senate's dysfunction, and as an unapologetic conservative and Trump ally. She took shots at her own party's ineffectiveness, citing it as her motivation for running, and told the Left to "bring it on." Her most resonant line? "I'll fight every day to make our Republican majority act like one." With Haslam out, Blackburn has to be the favorite to win the nomination (and the general, in a state Trump carried by 26 points last fall). She has a decent national platform, she's a proven fundraiser, she's a significant name in the state, she's not going to get outflanked to her right, and she's a woman. The pieces are falling into place:
With Haslam passing on a bid, Blackburn enters the race as the front-runner. She's a strong fundraiser who has about $3 million in her campaign account, has kept a relatively high profile in the House and is looked upon fondly by Breitbart News head Stephen Bannon and his allies, who have been looking to back a candidate in the race. Currently, conservative activist Andy Ogles is the only major candidate in the GOP primary. But Blackburn has already begun to clear the field, as state Sen. Mark Green, who had been mulling a Senate bid, has decided to run for Blackburn's congressional seat instead.
As I said, she's the frontrunner -- and possibly a prohibitive one, at that.