NASHVILLE — A new poll last week suggested that Democrat Phil Bredesen continues to lose ground to Republican Marsha Blackburn in the race to replace Bob Corker in the U.S. Senate.

A new poll from the New York Times found Blackburn with a 14-point lead over Bredesen among Tennessee voters, 54 percent to 40 percent. Blackburn, the longtime congresswoman from Middle Tennessee, is seeking to overcome the former governor’s high favorability marks among Volunteer State voters.

The NYT poll was a survey of around 600 registered voters between October 8 and October 11. It followed a plea from pop star Taylor Swift, who used her multi-million-person following on Instagram to plead on Bredesen’s behalf. 

However, the Bredesen campaign pushed back, saying in a memo to supporters that its internal polling reflects a much tighter race. According to The Tennessean, which obtained a copy of the memo written by Bredesen campaign manager Bob Corney, two internal tracking polls show Bredesen trailing Blackburn by just one point.

Still, the NYT poll is the third consecutive public poll to show Blackburn increasing her lead in the volatile Senate race. A Fox News poll found Blackburn up 5 points, followed by a CBS poll on October 9 that found Blackburn up 8 points. 

Bredesen had consistently maintained a lead in the race, until the raucous hearings to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Those events, which followed allegations of sexual assault that were lodged by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and ultimately resulted in a limited-scope investigation by the FBI, are being credited nationwide with bolstering enthusiasm among likely Republican voters. While the outcome of the Kavanaugh saga is being used as a campaign tool by Democrats in reliably blue states and congressional districts, Republicans are likewise seizing on the anger that has resulted from the confirmation to target voters in red states and conservative districts.

Bredesen, who had a moderate record in two terms as Tennessee’s governor, is seeking to flip the Volunteer State, a reliable state for Republicans, as part of Democrats’ effort to take back control of the U.S. Senate. As part of his strategy, Bredesen has targeted cross-over voters — moderates and conservatives who traditionally vote Republican but will instead vote for him based on his record as governor.

One day before Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by a 50-48 vote of the Senate, Bredesen broke his silence on President Trump’s second nomination to the high court by saying that he would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh. That statement angered Tennessee Democrats, with a spokesman for the Tennessee Democratic Party releasing a statement that called Bredesen’s comments “disappointing.”

While Democrats are widely expected to win control of the House of Representatives in next month’s midterm election, regaining control of the Senate has proven more problematic, as there are more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election than vulnerable Republicans. Winning the Senate will likely not be possible for Democrats without a Bredesen victory in Tennessee, and may not be possible even with a Bredesen win. A current average of public polls, as tracked by Real Clear Politics, finds Republicans on the verge of ending the election with at least 50 — and perhaps as many as 53 — seats in the Senate. The GOP currently holds 51 seats.