Two years ago, Debbi Ross didn’t decide who to vote for in the presidential election until she was inside the polling booth. At that point, she prayed to God to help her decide whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would be a better leader for the country.

“I said, ‘Help me with this because I’m so torn,’” the Smyrna, Tennessee, resident recalled. “[Trump] was so rough … it was really hard to vote for him. But I did it.”

Ross doesn’t regret her decision. She thinks President Trump has has made the country stronger. But this year, the grandmother of 12 made up her mind before Election Day. She’ll vote for Bill Lee, the Republican gubernatorial candidate. And she’s firmly behind Democrat Phil Bredesen in the state’s crucial Senate contest.

“I really don’t like Marsha at all,” Ross told TIME Saturday of the Republican candidate, Rep. Marsha Blackburn. “I will not be voting for her.”

This is the paradox at the heart of the tightest Senate race Tennessee has seen in more than a decade. Bredesen, a former two-term governor, has made the contest in this conservative state much closer than Republicans would like. If he wins, it will be because of people like Ross: moderate or conservative white women who live in suburban areas and still support the President.

The battle between Bredesen and Blackburn has reportedly become the most expensive in the state’s history, with super PACs from both sides funneling millions of dollars into advertisements and voter outreach and mobilization. While Blackburn has an advantage, according to polling averages, a survey released on Friday from East Tennessee State University found that they were tied.

Trump remains popular in this state, which voted for him by 26 points; A CNN poll released Nov. 1 found his approval rating at 53 percent there. But Blackburn is less so; according to that CNN poll, 53 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Bredesen, and 48 percent for Blackburn.

“Statewide, [Blackburn] has never carved a very popular figure,” said John Geer, Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University and political science professor. “She’s not well-liked, even within Republican circles.” Geer noted Tennessee Republicans have for years gravitated towards more centrist Republicans, like Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander (and Howard Baker before them), as well as Gov. Bill Haslam, who demonstrated an ability to work …read more

Source:: Time – Politics

      

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A Crucial Senate Race in Tennessee Is Coming Down to the Wire

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