How We Won – Marhsa Blackburn

Candidates Matter, Campaigns Matter

Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn soared to victory on Tuesday, clinching a historic win as the first female Senator from Tennessee, by proving she was the only the candidate who would represent Tennessee values in Washington, D.C. Marsha crisscrossed the state connecting with voters every day on the issues that mattered most to them and their families. Through her hard work, focus, and dedication, Marsha was able to burst through the clutter and endless negative attacks to take her message and vision for the next Senator from Tennessee straight to the voters; a message that a majority of Tennesseans showed they overwhelmingly believe in and support.

Bredesen: Out of Touch and Over-Confident

“He’s got this. We’ve got this, together. Onward.” – Bob Corney, Bredesen for Senate Campaign Manager, October 14th

That is the level of over-confidence that Bredesen’s team exuded in an October 14th memo that they leaked to the press. Bredesen’s team was that over-confident the whole campaign. From the very beginning they could not comprehend the idea that Marsha Blackburn could beat Phil Bredesen. And not only did Marsha win, it didn’t even end up being a close race. Marsha ended up winning by a larger percentage than Senator Alexander defeated Bob Clement by in 2002.

Bredesen throughout the race was vastly out of touch with Tennesseans. This could not be more apparent in the final two weeks when Bredesen said the caravan wasn’t a “serious threat” and then continued to doubled-down on it again.

Facing The Headwinds

From the state legislature up until this very day, Marsha has been underestimated her entire political career.

It is important to remember how strong Bredesen’s numbers were when this race began. His starting recall job approval was 61% – 20%. That’s an impressive number for anyone from either party in any state, let alone a Democrat in Tennessee who last held office in 2011. Bredesen had stronger starting numbers than Evan Bayh – fact. However, one key difference between Bredesen and Bayh is that Bredesen is a self-funder; with a net worth that could be as much as $390 million.

The political class was quick to underestimate Marsha’s chances of defeating Bredesen. The media mocked us. Some operatives within our own party were pessimistic – and a few in the state even worked against us.

However, while the political class was busy writing the obituary, Marsha’s campaign was busy executing a plan for success. We believed in our campaign plan and stuck to it even when the going got tough. We knew that July and August would be tough and that polls would show Bredesen with a lead, but we quietly were building a war chest for the homestretch. Bredesen spent over $3.5 million on TV before the August 2nd primary.

Offense, Not Defense

In September, everything changed. Bredesen had previously never been matched dollar for dollar on TV until then. There was only one week post-Labor Day where Democrats outspent Republicans on the airwaves. Once we put our foot on the gas pedal we never let up and kept Bredesen in a corner. It was something he had never previously experienced. This sustained momentum would not have been possible if we had gone up on TV in the spring like many “experts” said we should have.

Other pivotal moments in this race were the debates. Once again, Marsha was underestimated. Before the first debate, all we heard out of the Bredesen camp was how badly he was going to beat Marsha – that it wouldn’t even be close. Well, guess what? Not only did Marsha come out of the debates “still standing”, according to any objective observer Marsha convincingly beat Bredesen not once, but twice.

“From her opening statement until the end of the one-hour debate held here at Cumberland University, Blackburn aggressively went after Bredesen on issues.” (Times Free Press, 9/25/18)

“Blackburn immediately jumped into attacking Bredesen for attending a fundraiser that headlined ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg… Blackburn said after the debate Bredesen and Bloomberg probably talked about ‘taking guns away from Tennesseans’ or being a running mate with the gun control advocate in 2020.” (AP, 10/11/18)

“If you were not aware that Democratic Senate nominee Phil Bredesen supported his party’s candidate for president in 2016, now you are.” (Nashville Post, 10/10/18)

Marsha literally left Bredesen speechless at points in both debates.

Prior to the first debate, Bredesen bragged to the Tennessean, “I’ve done (debates) enough and I’m confident enough that I don’t need somebody to pat me on the back and tell me I can do it or something like that.” Afterwards, Bredesen himself admitted he was a “little rusty” in the first debate, but he was still unable to knock that rust off in the second debate.

Leaving Nothing On The Field

Marsha proved herself to be a prolific fundraiser. In Marsha’s first quarter alone, she raised $2 million, one of the largest hauls ever for a first-time Senate candidate in their first quarter.

There had not been a competitive general election statewide race in Tennessee since the 2006 Senate race. Unlike other battleground states, we didn’t inherit an existing grassroots infrastructure, we built it from scratch. Between our campaign and the RNC we knocked on over 1.5 million doors and made nearly 4.5 million total voter contacts. While Bredesen’s team used clipboards to door knock, we used iPhones and iPads. If a voter wanted to know about Marsha’s position on a certain issue, our volunteers were able to pull up a video on their iPad on that topic. Further, our staff wrote over 800,000 handwritten notes to doors we knocked on – also known as chase mail.

We ran a top-notch and innovative campaign. From day one we were not afraid to invest in digital, data, and analytics. Simply put – we ran the most aggressive and innovative digital campaign that Tennessee has ever seen. For comparison, the only Republican campaign that spent more on Google was Rick Scott.

Marsha’s victory is historic for a number of reasons…

  • Marsha is the first woman to be elected to the Senate in Tennessee.
  • We won in a state that is rapidly changing. Particularly in the Nashville media market with newmovers coming in every month by the hundreds. We had a specific plan for these new movers as most of them had not lived in the state during Bredesen’s time as Governor and were more persuadable. Marsha overperformed in all of the Nashville donut counties. For example, Marsha got 63% and 62%, in Sumner and Wilson counties respectively.
  • This was the highest turnout midterm race in Tennessee history and Marsha was still able to win going away. Turnout was just a little over 250,000 behind the 2016 presidential race.
  • Marsha ended up winning all, but 3 counties.

I cannot thank all of our supports and our team enough. One person does not win a campaign, it is all of us working together. I have no doubt that Marsha is going to make all of us proud as a U.S. Senator.