Mr. Bredesen discussed his trade record and trumpeted his tenure as mayor of Nashville, the booming capital of Tennessee, before recalling that he had not raised the sales tax as governor or intended to create an income tax, long a third railroad political in the state.
However, in an indication of how precarious it may be to run throughout the state as a democrat in the south, he did not mention his party and did not refer to President Trump by name. His only allusion to the Affordable Health Care Act was to say that it "needs fixing".
The Tennessee Democrats faced extinction under President Barack Obama, losing House seats they had controlled for generations and swapping near majorities in both houses of the state legislature for the smallest of minorities.
Should Mr. Bredesen become the standard-bearer of the party, however, he will test whether the state has undergone a lasting realignment or whether a well-funded and well-known Democrat can win when there is a more favorable climate and a president republican. (It is often easier for Southern Democrats to prevail when they can not be linked to a liberal bag man in the White House.)
The race will also determine whether the Tennessee tradition of electing political moderates, whether they be Democrats or republicans, was a reflection of a less polarized time or still remains a lasting feature of a varied state that spans two time zones and absorbs Appalachia, the New South rich in transients and the more agrarian Old South.
Even when the fashion of its southern neighbors has shifted just the same, Tennessee has continued to elect Republican pragmatists such as Mr. Corker, Senator Lamar Alexander and Governor Bill Haslam, who briefly considered a candidacy for the Senate. .
Mr. Bredesen, himself a transplant from New York, will probably face one of the two conservatives: Representative Marsha Blackburn, who lives in the suburbs of Nashville and serves a district that extends to Memphis, or former Rep. Stephen Fincher, who It is rural west of Tennessee. First, however, the former governor must contend with a primary election against James Mackler, a lawyer and army veteran. On Thursday, the Tennessee Republicans expressed their deep skepticism that any Democrat could win statewide.
"The Tennessee Phil Bredesen ruled is a very different Tennessee than it will welcome the Bredesen candidate in 2018," said Mark Braden, a Republican strategist in the state, who Trump led by 26 points.
But Mr. Bredesen's advisers believe that with Obama's abandonment of the scene, Democrats and independents who vote for Republicans over the past decade will once again be at stake when they are presented with a moderate consensus.
Democratic senators are making the same bet. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, assiduously courted Mr. Bredesen by telephone and in person, even subscribing to a poll by a Washington polling research firm to lure him into the race.
They believe that if 2018 becomes an election year for the wave, even red states like Tennessee may be at stake.
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