A poll released by The Tennessee Star of 1,007 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters shows that Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) is in a statistical tie with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN 7) in a potential 2018 Republican primary matchup for the Tennessee U.S. Senate seat.
When asked “If the election was held today, and the candidates were Bob Corker and Marsha Blackburn, who would you vote for U.S. Senator from Tennessee,” 41.4 percent of likely Tennessee Republican primary voters selected Corker while 38.6 percent selected Blackburn. The 2.8 percent differential between the two is within the poll’s 3.1 percent margin of error, thus making the race a statistical dead heat.
The bad news for Corker is that Blackburn beats him in two of the Volunteer State’s three geographic regions.
Among West Tennessee voters, Blackburn beats Corker soundly, 39 percent to 26 percent.
Among Middle Tennessee voters, Blackburn beats Corker 43 percent to 38 percent.
Only in his home region of East Tennessee does Corker beat Blackburn. There, he wins by a margin of 49 percent to 26 percent.
Blackburn’s current district covers much of Middle Tennessee. Prior to redistricting after the 2010 election, however, the district stretched from Middle Tennessee all the way to the outskirts of Memphis in West Tennessee, so voters in both regions are familiar with Blackburn.
“These numbers spell big trouble for Corker,” a Capitol Hill insider tells The Tennessee Star.
“If Blackburn runs she has an excellent chance of beating an incumbent senator. Even if she declines to run, these numbers will likely encourage someone else to get in the race,” the insider adds.
“But there is only room room for just one conservative to challenge Corker. Otherwise you end up repeating the 2006 U.S. Senate and 2010 Gubernatorial primaries, where the conservatives split their vote and the more liberal candidate won the nomination,” the insider concludes.
“With Marsha having a much lower name ID and base in East Tennessee than Corker, she has a lot of room to improve her position statewide if she runs,” media consultant and political strategist Steve Gill tells The Star.
“Where voters have decent awareness of both of them she is winning head to head outside the margin of error,” he notes.
“Beating an incumbent is always difficult, and if she wants to be a U.S. Senator she may think the prospect of Lamar Alexander retiring and providing an open seat in opportunity in two more years is a better option. She has to weigh whether Lamar retiring is more likely than her beating Corker, and Tennessee has a long history of people expecting others to retire and open the door for them while seeing their other options slip away with the passing of time,” Gill concludes.
Corker has less of a problem topping two other potential challengers in potential head-to-head matchups polled by The Star.
Corker beats former State Rep. Joe Carr among likely Tennessee Republican primary voters 51 percent to 24 percent.
In 2014, Carr ran against Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in the Republican U.S. Senate primary and lost in a surprisingly close 49 percent to 40 percent vote.
Corker also beats the relatively unknown Andy Ogles by 52 percent to 15 percent.
Ogles is the executive director of Americans for Prosperity–Tennessee.
The Tennessee Star Poll did not test a head-to-head match up between Senator Corker and State Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville), another potential conservative challenger. At the time the poll was initiated, Green was considered a potential candidate in the 2018 Tennessee Republican Gubernatorial race.
Late last week, Green said he would not run for governor in 2018. He added, however, that he “will instead look to Washington DC to help serve our country and provide real help to President Trump,” an indication that he may be considering a challenge to Corker in the U.S. Senate race, or possibly biding his time to make a bid for the Congressional seat currently held by Marsha Blackburn, should she challenge Corker in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, or the Congressional seat currently held by Diane Black, should she enter the race for governor, which many political observers think is likely.
Green is currently a resident of Blackburn’s Congressional District, but Black’s Congressional District is nearby.
The Constitution allows residents of a state to run for any Congressional District in that state, though typically Congressional candidates reside in the district which they seek to represent.
Corker appears to be hurt among likely Tennessee Republican primary voters with self-inflicted wounds that arise from his increasingly strident criticism of President Trump, who remains extraordinarily popular among Tennessee Republican primary voters, as The Star reported yesterday.
Corker’s comments last month that the Trump White House was “spinning out of control” were very poorly received by likely Tennessee Republican primary voters, as The Star reported earlier today.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Corker appeared to double down in his criticism of President Trump.
“The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was stunned Tuesday when told by reporters about President Trump’s tweets on Qatar,” the Hill reported yesterday:
Asked for his reaction, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) first said he hadn’t seen the tweets.
Told by a reporter that Trump accused Qatar of being a state sponsor of terrorism, Corker responded, in a notably lower register, “The president?”
Reporters responded yes, and five seconds of silence later, Corker followed up: “When did that occur?”
Told that it happened Tuesday morning, Corker stood silent for about another 10 seconds.
“I, um, I want to go back and see specifically what he has said,” Corker finally said.
“Our position generally as a nation has been that these things ebb and flow and they come up from time to time, but we work with all of the countries,” he continued.
In contrast to Corker, Rep. Blackburn has steadfastly remained supportive of President Trump.
The Tennessee Star Poll also asked likely Tennessee Republican primary voters their views on three key issues expected to dominate the 2018 Gubernatorial campaign: repeal of the gas tax, in-state tuition for illegal aliens, and “Constitutional Carry.”
Those results will be released later today and tomorrow.
The poll, which was commissioned by The Tennessee Star and conducted by Triton Polling and Research in an automated (IVR) telephone survey of 1,007 likely Tennessee Republican Primary voters between May 31 and June 5, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.
You can read the Senator Corker re-elect question and head-to-head match up results on page 2 of the top line poll results, as well as pages 1, 4, and 5, here:
[pdf-embedder url=”https://tennesseestar.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Poll1.pdf” title=”Tennessee Star Poll of Likely Republican Primary Voters Released June 6 2017″]
[pdf-embedder url=”https://tennesseestar.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Poll2.pdf” title=”Tennessee Star Poll of Likely Republican Primary Voters Released June 6 2017″]
[pdf-embedder url=”https://tennesseestar.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Poll4all.pdf” title=”Tennessee Star Poll of Likely Republican Primary Voters Released June 6 2017″]
[pdf-embedder url=”https://tennesseestar.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Poll5.pdf” title=”Tennessee Star Poll of Likely Republican Primary Voters Released June 6 2017″]