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Disappointing GOP leaders, Blackburn launches Senate campaign

GOP leaders didn't want Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) to run for Tennessee's open Senate seat. The right-wing congresswoman is doing it anyway.
Marsha Blackburn
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., joins GOP House leaders during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, following a closed-door strategy session.

Last Wednesday morning, Senate Republican leaders received two pieces of bad news. The first came by way of Alabama, where the GOP's preferred candidate, Luther Strange, lost a Senate primary to Roy Moore, a fringe radical who believes he isn't bound by the American legal system.

The second was a retirement announcement from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). Not only are Senate Republican leaders sorry to see him leave -- Corker is a popular figure on Capitol Hill -- but GOP officials realized his departure would open the door to him being replaced by someone from the party's crackpot wing.

Almost immediately, several Republican senators reached out directly to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R), who's wrapping up his second and final term, urging him to run. Yesterday, he officially declined.

Soon after, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), while attacking her party's Senate leadership, announced she's running for the open Senate seat. The Tennessean reported:

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is entering the 2018 U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker, ending a week's worth of speculation and immediately catapulting her to front-runner status as others consider launching their own bids. [...]"I know the left calls me a wingnut or a knuckle-dragging conservative. And you know what, I say that's alright, bring it on," Blackburn says in the nearly three-minute video.

And why would anyone call the congresswoman "a wingnut or a knuckle-dragging conservative"? Because Blackburn has gone out of her way to position herself as something of a far-right extremist.

In 2009, for example, a small group of 11 House Republicans unveiled a "birther" bill in Congress, requiring presidential candidates to prove they're native-born citizens. Blackburn was one of the 11.

I skimmed through some MaddowBlog archives last night and found a series of related items. Blackburn, for example, not only rejects climate science, she declared last year that she believes the planet has been cooling for much of the last decade, evidence be damned. She's also on record arguing against proposals to guarantee pay equity between men and women, because she believes such efforts are "condescending" to women. When railing against Bush-era ceiling-fan regulations, Blackburn went so far as to adopt Martin Niemoller's "First they came ..." framing.

Last year, she also led a bizarre witch hunt against Planned Parenthood (full disclosure: my wife's employer), which turned into a farcical embarrassment for both her and Congress.

And now the far-right Tennessean is eager to parlay this record into a U.S. Senate seat, where she intends to butt heads with her own party's leaders, whom she considers insufficiently right-wing.

GOP leaders have reason to be concerned.