VOL. 132 | NO. 211 | Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Kustoff and Blackburn Map Different Incumbent’s Strategy for Republicans
By Bill Dries
Tennessee Republicans are mapping a different incumbent’s strategy for 2018 midterm elections less than a year into Donald Trump’s presidency.
“This is our chance to get the Republican agenda done,” was how U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Germantown put it, speaking to 200 delegates at the Tennessee Federation of Republican Women convention at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis this weekend.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running next year in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat Bob Corker is giving up, said Trump’s election was “the warm up for the conservative revolution in this country, for people saying I buy into and I agree with the message of President Donald Trump,” she said to cheers from the group.
The Senate primary includes former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, who made his entry formal over the weekend. Fincher has also talked about adhering to Trump’s political agenda and has been critical of Blackburn’s ability to accomplish goals legislatively.
Blackburn didn’t mention Fincher’s criticism, nor was she critical of Corker, who had a very public parting of ways with Trump after his announcement last month that he would not seek re-election.
But there were some general references to the different path the Republican majority in the Senate has taken on the administration’s efforts as Blackburn talked about Senate passage of a budget proposal.
“I guess they drank some Red Bull or took some Geritol or whatever because they turned up and they took a vote and they passed a budget,” she said. “It does set the benchmark for us to move forward on tax reform. And that is what the American people want to see. … They want to see action. They are tired – all of us – we are tired of Washington running our lives.”
Blackburn also said Republicans shouldn’t become complacent because of existing majorities in the U.S. Senate and House as well as super majorities in the Tennessee House and Senate going into the 2018 campaign season.
“We need to realize that our opposition is very well organized,” she said. “They are very well funded and they are very well committed to making these races and putting people up for all of these positions. … We cannot slow down.”
Kustoff, a former state and county Republican Party chairman, noted that the Republican base outside Memphis in the Shelby County suburbs is the largest county base of Republicans in the state.
That has been an advantage for the Republican presidential nominee in every general election since 2000, even though Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried Shelby County in the 2016 general election by almost a two-to-one margin.
Since Trump’s election, the local Democratic Party has reorganized and part of the reorganization has been tapping local energy from protests and other events as a reaction against Trump’s election and his policies.