For the last five weeks, most of the political world has been (rightly) focused on the wild race for the Alabama Senate seat that l Jeff Sessions vacated earlier this year to become attorney general. But other key races didn’t stop while Democratic senator-elect Doug Jones was beating scandal-ridden Republican Roy Moore. In fact, the last two weeks have seen some significant news about the 2018 Tennessee senate election. Specifically, reporters found out that former Gov. Phil Bredesen is going to enter the Senate race and multiple polls have gauged initial public opinion on that election.
Bredesen’s entry into the race is significant. Part of the reason Democrats hold 48 seats and could plausibly take back the upper chamber in 2018 is that they’ve been able to run competent candidates in red states. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Montana Sen. Jon Tester aren’t simply lucky—they’ve been able to build a personal brand in their states and win over some typically Republican voters. Bredesen won every county in Tennessee in his gubernatorial re-election bid in 2006, so his entry is good news for the blue team—it gives them a shot at running a strong candidate with an established relationship with voters in a state that they might otherwise have trouble winning.
And the initial polling also shows some good news for Democrats. In a Vanderbilt poll, Trump’s approval in the state was 48 percent—not great in a state he won by 26 points a little more than a year ago. Moreover, a Gravis poll showed him a few points ahead of potential Republican candidates Marsha Blackburn and Stephen Fincher. Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning led Bredesen in the poll, but the former Tennessee and NFL quarterback has said he has “zero interest in being a politician”
But the poll also shows some bad news for Democrats. The Gravis poll shows that Democrats are more united behind Bredesen than Republicans are behind their possible candidates, indicating that the eventual Republican nominee might be able to gain some support by unifying the party.
For now, though, Bredesen’s entry makes this race much more interesting than it was just a few weeks ago.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard