Marsha Blackburn: On the Case and On the Road



U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn in Memphis on Thursday
  • JB
  • U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn in Memphis on Thursday
“I think it’s interesting that to challenge me, they [Democrats] had to go to somebody in Connecticut”: That was 7th District Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn’s tack Thursday on her presumptive Democratic opponent, Greg Rabidoux, and that’s seemingly about as far as she wants to go — for public consumption, anyhow —in commenting on her opponent.

The reference to Connecticut is to the home state of Rabidoux, a professor of politics and law at Austin Peay University in Clarksville, and a bona fide Tennessean these days.

Whether he’s a bona fide candidate as well is another matter. The under-funded Rabidoux is still a relative unknown in most of the sprawling 7th District, which spans from the suburbs of Memphis to those of Nashville and takes in 15 counties. Rabidoux has circulated an Internet ad — a rudimentary piece of graphics attacking Blackburn for her alleged ties to Big Oil — and local supporters are trying to disseminate some yard signs and bumper stickers.

Blackburn, meanwhile, like her ideological opposite number and neighboring congressman, Steve Cohen of the 9th Congressional District, has money, all the advantages of incumbency, and something of a national celebrity. She is an assistant GOP whip in the House of Representatives and a frequent interviewee on national TV talk shows.

For much of Thursday her mission was to use her celebrity on behalf of other Republican candidates for Congress. She introduced Alan Nunnelee, a candidate in Mississippi’s First Congressional district, at a luncheon at the Chickasaw Country Club, then whisked over to Jonesboro to give a helping hand to Rick Crawford, a candidate in Arkansas’s First Congressional District.

All the while, Blackburn says, she stays in touch with her own 7th District — partly through visits and forums and partly through what she calls “freedom networking” via Facebook and her congressional newsletter and other means.

She is absolutely certain that her advocacy of limited government and minimal spending accurately reflects the sentiments of the district. She vaunts her opposition to every stimulus plan and bailout, those of George W. Bush as well as those proposed by Barack Obama. “I’ve been against pre-TARP, TARP, and Son of TARP,” she quips — the acronym TARP standing for “Troubled Asset Relief Program.”

Blackburn warns about a federal deficit over $ 1 ½ trillion and a federal debt that’s risen to $15 trillion, and she maintains that “small business” is being strangled by “bureaucracy, rules and regulations.”

She notes that the five-percent across-the-board spending cuts that she advocated as a state senator in 2002 were considered extreme at the time but were exceeded by the nine-percent cuts finally enacted by Democratic governor Phil Bredesen, who took office later that year. And she now has active proposals in the U.S. House for across-the-board cuts in federal spending.

She doesn’t anticipate getting them to the floor with Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California as Speaker of the House. And that’s one reason she’s willing to put herself on the line in swing districts like the ones in Arkansas and Mississippi.

“In eight years I haven’t had a week off, and very seldom do I take a day off,” said Blackburn, who went on to calculate that she had done something related to her job or to her ideological mission every single day during the previous eight months.

As recently as 2006, Blackburn won a national political website’s online poll and was designated “the Hottest Woman in U.S. Politics.”; For all that, and for all her current activity, she didn’t get a mention in the July 3 issue of Newsweek, which featured South Carolina Republican gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley and, in a sidebar, cited several other exemplars of the “the supposed hotness of Republican women.”
But friends and foes alike should take note: Marsha Blackburn is still on the case.

Blackburn with Nunnelee at Chickasaw Country Club
  • JB
  • Blackburn with Nunnelee at Chickasaw Country Club

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