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Bredesen - Blackburn Senate Debate 2018

UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy hosted the second and final debate in the US Senate race between Representative Marsha Blackburn and former governor Phil Bredesen Wednesday evening.

A partnership between the Baker Center and Nexstar Media Group Inc., the parent company of local ABC affiliate WATE-TV, the hourlong forum was broadcast statewide. The questions spanned issues that included Supreme Court nominations, gun control, and tariffs.

“Rigorous and informed debate is a cornerstone of our democracy, and the Baker Center is honored to have contributed to that process by hosting this final debate between our two Tennessee candidates for US Senate,” said Matt Murray, director of the center. “We are grateful to the candidates for their participation and willingness to talk directly to Tennesseans about key issues in this race.”

The debate was on a closed set with no audience in the Toyota Auditorium. Afterward, candidates addressed the members of the media in the Baker Center rotunda.

Between 300 and 400 people attended the live viewing of the debate in Cox Auditorium in the Alumni Memorial Building.

The crowd—which sounded about evenly split in their allegiance—watched the debate intently, reacting with cheers and jeers, and even occasional laughter, as the candidates responded to questions about immigration, Social Security, newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the current political divide, and other hot-button topics.

Thanks to the technology of the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center in the College of Communication and Information, the crowd was able to see real-time reaction on social media. A word cloud, tweets, and other social media commentary about the debate scrolled on smaller screens flanking the large screen televising the debate.

The debate also offered valuable experience to UT’s Baker Ambassadors, who gained a behind-the-scenes look at how political campaigns operate as they took on roles that included escorting candidates and campaign staff, assisting members of the media, and supporting production staff.

Media coverage:

Nexstar: U.S. Senate candidates Blackburn, Bredesen face off in last debate
WBIR: Tennessee Senate candidates hold second debate in Knoxville, lighting up social media
News Channel 5: Bredesen, Blackburn Spar in Final Debate (Also ran in Clarksville Now)
Associated Press: Tennessee Senate candidates exchange barbs in final debate (Ran in WVLT, CBS News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Daily Mail, The Telegraph, Arizona Daily Star, Washington Post, Nashville Ledger, and 331 other outlets)
Compass: A Tale of Two Bredesens
Washington Post: Tennessee Democrat says the Senate should consider any future Trump court nominees
News Sentinel: Blackburn, Bredesen spar over health care, sexual harassment and Brett Kavanaugh in final Senate debate
The Tennessean: 
Attacks, Hillary Clinton and #MeToo: 3 takeaways from the Blackburn, Bredesen US Senate debate
Daily Memphian: Blackburn claims women’s voices ‘shredded’ during Bredesen administration
The Hill: Five takeaways from the final Tennessee Senate debate (Also ran in
Daily Beacon: Senate debate sheds light on candidates’ policy stances
Daily Beacon (Mateos Hayes): Letter to the Editor: Bredesen’s Kavanaugh decision, a costly concession
Twitchy: Taylor Swift, dressed as a disco ball, says ‘Get out and vote’ at the #AMAs
Times Free Press: Fireworks as Blackburn, Bredesen tangle in final debate
Times Free Press: How to watch tonight’s Blackburn, Bredesen debate
News Sentinel (George Korda): Bredesen’s Kavanaugh gamble: Better never than late?