LEBANON, Tenn. — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen said Wednesday that he's "embarrassed by the circus" in the confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee — and he's pointing at both Democrats and Republicans.
The former Tennessee governor said Republicans are "running this thing through in a way that I don't think was the founders' intent." Meanwhile, he added, some Democrats involved in Brett Kavanaugh's hearings have acted as presidential candidates.
Bredesen's criticisms come as he continues to weigh how he would have voted on Kavanaugh, a decision he said he feels he owes to Tennesseans. With a Senate vote planned for November, it's unlikely that Bredesen would get to vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation if he's elected.
"It should not be about relitigating past elections, either side," Bredesen told a gathering of Tennessee attorneys Wednesday. "It certainly should not be about electoral politics. It shouldn't be an opportunity for people to act up who are running for other offices."
Bredesen's opponent in the closely watched Senate race is Marsha Blackburn, and the GOP congresswoman has strongly backed Kavanaugh's nomination.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has needled Bredesen for not stating his position, but Bredesen said he has not yet decided because he needs to catch up on some of the hearings that he missed because of travel. He also said he wants to speak to a mutual friend of Kavanaugh's first.
Polls show Blackburn and Bredesen are tangled in a tight race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker. The GOP holds a 51-49 Senate edge.
Bredesen remains popular from his two terms as a moderate governor in the red state. As he courts independents and moderate Republicans who may have previously supported him, Bredesen acknowledged that people often have questions about whether he's going to get to Washington and go to "the dark side."
Bredesen is aiming to convince them he will be an independent thinker who will oppose or support Trump based on whether his specific ideas are good or bad for Tennessee. Republicans are looking to tie him to Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at every turn.
Promising independence on how he would view a judicial nominee, Bredesen has pointed to comments by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins, who has said the former governor looked past partisan politics to appoint Bivins, a Republican, as a district judge before he rose to the high court.
On the Kavanaugh question, Bredesen said he will weigh his decision based on qualifications, ethical standards, experience and temperament. But in his view, Bredesen said, there's "no right answer."
"You will make mad half of the people who are for me, whichever way you go," Bredesen told reporters.
Bredesen said Kavanaugh "certainly appears to be competent," but he has other questions he is looking into about Kavanaugh.
Democrats have portrayed Kavanaugh as a judge who might vote to undercut or overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion.
Bredesen seemed to downplay the abortion consideration, saying it is "certainly not as important for me as it is for some Democrats," adding that Kavanaugh "certainly has not taken a position one way or another."
"Even if he were not confirmed, I don't think a Republican president is going to appoint anyone who is going to be any cleaner than he is, more acceptable to a Democrat, in that regard," Bredesen told reporters.