President Trump held a rally in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, using the opportunity to both reconnect with his base and present Republican senatorial candidate, Marsha Blackburn. Introduced after a laundry list of Tennessee politicians, Marsha Blackburn came on stage only five minutes into the speech, with the crowd at full attention. Unlike the more lackluster candidates Trump has rallied for since his inauguration, Blackburn stood at the podium with visible enthusiasm, and used the entirety of her short speech to heap praise upon the President’s accomplishments:
“Thank you so much Mr. President, we are so thrilled that you are here… I’ve gotta tell ya, he has had an amazing eighteen months: A Supreme Court justice, forty federal judges, repealing record numbers of regulations, tax cuts, decreasing illegal immigration, standing up to China and North Korea, defeating ISIS in Syria. Let me tell you, that is what you call getting the job done.”
Capping off her own two-sentence Trump rally, Blackburn pledged her absolute support for the President’s agenda:
“I’m gonna tell ya right now, Tennessee needs a Senator who is gonna support President Donald Trump, and I am going to be there to stand with President Donald Trump and take your Tennessee values to Washington DC to fight with him to get the job done. Thank you all so much!”
Trump, clearly pleased with the oratorical offering, went on with his normal routine, covering all the bases of his administration’s progress, and making sure to drop Blackburn’s name whenever the crowd’s excitement crested. Aside from the expected rhetoric regarding both valuable issues—gun rights and the upcoming NAFTA renegotiations—and less useful ones—the tax cut, Iran, and the new embassy in Jerusalem—the President reaffirmed his promise that Mexico will, ultimately, pay for the border wall. Other noteworthy moments included a new potential nickname for “MS-13 Lover” Nancy Pelosi, a calling-out of John McCain for crashing the repeal of ObamaCare, and even an acknowledgement that the President has to hold back “nasty and tough” John Bolton (also in attendance).
Overall, the speech gave the impression that Trump is still in touch with his base, though the importance of the rally lies mostly in his energizing support of Marsha Blackburn. Her popularity with the crowd was palpable, and she clearly meshes with the President at a deeper level than the rest of the candidates Trump has rallied for. Blackburn’s background in marketing and sales undoubtedly made her the type of character who can follow Trump’s lead effortlessly—they shared a friendly embrace and a peck on the cheek at both her entrance and exit from the stage. Trump is likewise a true believer in Blackburn, evidenced by his selection of her as vice chair of his transition team. On the issues, Blackburn has pledged a virtual lockstep with the Trump agenda, particularly on immigration.
Blackburn, the 16-year Representative of Tennessee’s 7th district, is seeking to take the seat of retiring Bob Corker (an unpopular senator who, having often been critical of Trump, received nearly as loud a booing as Schumer and Pelosi upon his public introduction at the rally), and must face off against former Democratic Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen on election day. In a saner world, Bredesen’s election would not be catastrophic for the country, but any Democrat, moderate or not, can be expected to oppose the Trump agenda with tooth and nail. The President correctly labeled the moderate Bredesen “a tool of Chuck Schumer.” Blackburn, adamantly aligned with Trump, is the obvious choice in November.
Most polling puts Bredesen ahead by margins from 1% to 10%, but the larger leads are typically accompanied by high rates of undecided voters, a group expected to lean right at the ballot box. If national tracking polls of the generic ballot remain consistent in the Volunteer State, we can expect that statewide polling has generally overrated Bredesen. Nonetheless, the inconsistency of the polling results indicates that the Tennessee race is going to be tight, making Trump’s intervention particularly crucial.
Fielding candidates that embrace Trump and his populism is undoubtedly a better strategy for Republicans than trying to push through the same old establishment picks. Barring any Roy Moore-tier scandals, pro-Trump candidates will have substantial access to the voting base that gave Trump his victory in 2016 (Tennessee voted for Trump by a massive 35-point margin). Ideally, the rest of the Republican midterm hopefuls will take a page from Blackburn’s book and swear political fealty to the President and his agenda. Every nominal Republican in a congressional seat is a Democrat that isn’t, but forming a firmer pro-Trump voting bloc in both the House and the Senate is essential to pushing through the hardline immigration policy that America will perish without.