A new poll released by The Tennessee Star conducted of 1,007 likely Republican primary voters in Tennessee by Triton Polling and Research shows that Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) may have trouble winning the nomination of his own party in its August 2018 U.S. Senate primary.
First elected to the United States Senate in 2006, the former mayor of Chattanooga is up for re-election to a third term in 2018. He has not yet said that he will seek re-election, but many political observers would be surprised if he opted not to run again.
When asked “As of now, do you think Bob Corker deserves re-election or is it time to give someone else a chance? ” only 41.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters in Tennessee said he “deserves re-election.”
An equal number, 41.6 percent, said “give someone else a chance.”
There were not a great number who were undecided on this question–only 17.3 percent said “don’t know/not sure.”
“An incumbent who falls below a 50 percent re-elect number should be wary, particularly when they have seen so much anti-incumbent turmoil in the electorate in recent years,” media consultant and political strategist Steve Gill tells The Tennessee Star.
“But when that number slips to 41 percent, as we see with Senator Corker’s numbers, it should sound alarm bells,” Gill adds.
The junior Senator from Tennessee may only have himself to blame for some of his apparent vulnerability.
Last month he made headlines when he criticized President Trump, who remains very popular among Tennessee’s Republican primary voters.
When asked “Senator Bob Corker recently said President Trump is ‘out of control’ and the ‘White House is in a downward spiral.’ Do you agree or disagree with Senator Corker?” only 20 percent of likely Tennessee GOP primary voters agreed. A huge 76 percent disagreed.
His criticism of President Trump appears to have hurt Corker badly among Tennessee’s Republican primary voters.
When asked “Based upon Senator Corker’s comments about President Trump, are you more likely or less likely to vote for him, or do his comments make no difference?” a full 55 percent of likely Tennessee GOP primary voters said they were “less likely to vote for him.” Only 11 percent said they were “more likely to vote for him.”
Thirty-three percent said his comments made no difference.
“Senator Corker is well known and has high name recognition, so the opportunity to change his image among voters, particularly among conservative Republicans, is pretty limited,” media consultant Gill says.
“The intense support for Trump among GOP primary voters is another challenge for Corker, particularly in view of the critical comments he has directed at the President. If Trump retains the current level of support among Tennessee Republican voters, or even higher, that doesn’t bode well for an establishment type politician. In fact, the negative response to Corker’s comments about Trump’s administration being in a ‘downward spiral’ make it clear that Trump supporters have little tolerance for attacks on him by fellow Republicans,” Gill adds.
A Capitol Hill insider agrees with Gill’s assessment of Corker’s potential vulnerability in 2018.
“The re-elect number could be problematic,” the insider tells The Star.
“Corker has had nearly 12 years to solidify a reputation among Republicans. But he seems to be taking an unnecessary risk with that reputation by maligning someone like Trump, who won all but three of Tennessee’s 95 counties,” the insider says.
Fortunately for Sen. Corker, President Trump may not harbor the same level of animosity towards him that Tennessee Republican primary voters apparently do. This past weekend, Corker joined Trump and Tennessee football legend Peyton Manning in a game of golf.
But Tennessee Republican primaries have been treacherous for incumbents lately.
“In 2014 Senator Lamar Alexander was held to under 49 percent and lost a few dozen counties against a vastly underfunded and almost unknown State Rep. Joe Carr. None of the polls a year out showed Alexander this vulnerable to a challenge,” Gill noted.
“A well funded, conservative challenger in the August 2018 Republican primary could mean big trouble for Corker,” Gill concluded.
The Capitol Hill insider sounds a cautionary note to Senator Corker as well.
“With a re-elect so under water with Republican primary voters, Corker needs to be very careful. All it would take for him to get a serious primary opponent would be to have an ethical or personal controversy emerge,” the insider tells The Star.
“Corker doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room with poll numbers like these,” the insider concludes.
The Tennessee Star Poll asked likely Republican primary voters about how three potential conservative challengers to Senator Bob Corker would fare in head-to-head match ups with him in the August 2018 Republican primary.
Those results will be released in a separate story that will be published at The Star at 9 a.m. today.
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 gubernatorial head-to-head match up question and the Senator Corker re-elect question from page 2 of the top line poll results, as well as pages 1, 4, and 5, here:
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