President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty on Friday for the U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee on the ballot in 2020 that opened up with the retirement of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
Trump’s tweet about the 2020 U.S. Senate race in the Volunteer State left no doubt that he is firmly in support of Hagerty’s candidacy.
“Tennessee loving Bill Hagerty, who was my Tennessee Victo[r]y chair and is now the very outstanding Ambassador to Japan, will be running for the U.S. Senate,” the president began.
“He is strong on crime, borders, & our 2nd A. Loves our Military & our Vets. Has my Complete & Total Endorsement!” Trump added.
Tennessee loving Bill Hagerty, who was my Tennessee Victoy Chair and is now the very outstanding Ambassador to Japan, will be running for the U.S. Senate. He is strong on crime, borders & our 2nd A. Loves our Military & our Vets. Has my Complete & Total Endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2019
Trump’s endorsement makes Hagerty the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in the August 2020 primary. The president easily won Tennessee over Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 26 points, and his approval rating among likely Tennessee Republican primary voters remains sky high.
Whoever emerges as the Republican nominee will also be a heavy favorite in the general election, especially since the very best candidate the Democrats have had for statewide office in more than a decade, former Gov. Phil Bredesen, was easily defeated by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in the 2018 general election for the state’s other seat in the U.S. Senate by 11 points.
The race for the Republican nomination was on hold until former Gov. Bill Haslam decided whether he would enter it. On Thursday, Haslam announced that he would not run for the U.S. Senate in 2020. Later that day, another strong potential contender, Rep. Mark Green (R-TN-07), also announced that he would not run for the Senate seat in 2020.
Hagerty, who previously served in the Haslam administration as Tennessee’s Director of Economic and Community Development, has yet to make a formal announcement of his candidacy for the Senate, but is expected to do so after he resigns as U.S. Ambassador to Japan, which will likely happen soon.
Dr. Manny Sethi, an emergency room physician who works for Vanderbilt, is the only announced candidate for the Republican nomination so far. A political neophyte with a conservative political philosophy, Sethi’s campaign said in a press release this week that said he raised $1.5 million in the quarter ending June 30. Of that amount, approximately $1 million came in the form of a personal loan to the campaign.