As the 2018 election swings into full fury some are already looking ahead to the 2020 elections that will feature not only a Presidential cycle but also a likely reelection bid by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander. A new Tennessee Star poll of likely 2018 general election voters indicates that troubled waters like ahead for Alexander.
31.8% of the voters surveyed indicated they had a “favorable” view of Senator Lamar Alexander while 40.8% had an “unfavorable” view. 27.4% were “unsure or didn’t know” which is a remarkably high number for a political figure who has been a fixture in Tennessee politics for four decades. Alexander has not yet announced that he is running for reelection in 2020 when his current term ends, but he is expected to seek another six year term.
Tennessee Star political editor Steve Gill says that Alexander’s low approval figures can be traced to several factors. “First, his colleague Senator Bob Corker regularly attacks President Trump; Corker’s behavior is splashing back on Lamar despite the fact that he’s actually been very supportive of the President and isn’t launching the kinds of cheap shots that Corker constantly spews out. Not calling our Corker and standing more clearly with the President doesn’t endear him to the Trump supporters.”
“Second, those who support Trump among the conservative Republican and independent voter base, including Tea Party activists, see Alexander as too entrenched with the Establishment and too moderate while the never-Trumpers and liberals see him aligned too closely with the President, so both sides of the ideological aisle are not supportive of Alexander. Finally, in a time when many political leaders express themselves in the raw, bold and blustery manner of professional wrestlers, Lamar has a restrained, thoughtful and genteel manner that leaves some voters wondering if he has the ‘fight’ in him necessary for these combative and rough-and-tumble times.”
Unlike Corker, Alexander is not disliked and has retained a strong level of respect from the voters, Gill adds. “Looking towards 2020 he has a lot of work to do in connecting with Tennessee voters in an environment vastly different than he has ever faced,” Gill says. “He has to stay true to who he is while communicating his solidarity and alignment with Trump on key issues while not trying to emulate the President’s tone and tenor. It’s a difficult challenge.”
Should Alexander seek re-election, he will be running as President Donald Trump is also on the ballot. The Tennessee Star poll indicates that Trump retains a strong measure of support from Tennessee voters. His approval/disapproval numbers are 51.8% approve versus 42.4% disapprove with only 5.8% undecided. Trump’s approval rating is a full twenty points higher than Alexander’s.
Trump defeated Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by a 61-35% margin in 2016. Her approval ratings in Tennessee have not rebounded since that election. The Tennessee Star survey revealed that Clinton currently has a 30% “approve” and 60.4% “disapprove” gap among Tennessee likely general election voters.
Phil Bredesen, the Democrat nominee for the Senate facing Republican Marsha Blackburn, donated over $40,000 to elect Clinton to the White House. The Blackburn team is likely to repeatedly remind voters of that fact over the next six weeks in view of the low regard Tennessee voters have for her. “Hillary is toxic to Bredesen’s chances of winning in November,” Gill points out, “and Trump voters who may be leaning towards Bredesen can be pulled away by tying the two together.”
The Triton Poll conducted on behalf of Tennessee Star from September 10-12, 2018 surveyed 1038 likely voters.
Review the topline results of the survey:180913 Triton - TN Star Tennessee Statewide Survey - Topline Results (1)