Sanford: Republicans know they’re in for the toughest Senate battle yet

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the race for the U.S.Senate in Tennessee heats up, so too is the intrigue. There are signs emerging that Republicans believe they are in for their toughest Senate battle in nearly a quarter century.

The seat is up for grabs after incumbent Bob Corker announced last year that he will not seek a third time. On Sunday, a senior adviser to Corker confirmed to the Chattanooga Times Free Press that colleagues of Corker in the Senate and supporters in Tennessee are pressing Corker to change his mind, but it doesn't appear that will happen.

The reports underscore the worry that Corker`s seat is no longer considered safe for Republicans. The top GOP candidates seeking to replace Corker are Marsha Blackburn and Stephen Fincher. Both Blackburn and Fincher are far more conservative than Corker, and both are closely tied to President Donald Trump in a year when the President`s popularity is falling.

Adding to the Republican worry is the fact that Phil Bredesen is the race on the Democratic side and his campaign is starting to pick up steam. Bredesen is the last Democrat to win statewide, and even though it`s been more than 10 years, he presents a formidable challenge for Republicans.

It all means that 2018 will be an exciting year in Tennessee politics.