A new Tennessee Star Poll released on Monday shows that Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) leads former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, in a head-to-head general election matchup for the Tennessee U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) by 11 points, 50 percent to 39 percent.
The same poll shows that Bredesen leads former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN-08) by 3 points, 41 percent to 38 percent in a head-to-head matchup, within the poll’s margin of error.
The automated (IVR) telephone survey of 1,003 likely Tennessee voters in the November 2018 general election was conducted for The Tennessee Star by Triton Research between January 21 and January 24 and has a 3.1 percent margin of error.
Forty-six percent of poll respondents were Republicans, 25 percent were Democrats, and 27 percent were Independents.
“With Bredesen having served as a two term governor, he has a strong residual of name recognition across the state that currently gives him a slight advantage over Blackburn who is less well known outside of Middle Tennessee,” conservative political commentator and media consultant Steve Gill says.
“In East Tennessee, for example, a strong base of Republican voters will almost certainly help her move more of the undecided voters into her column than will end up in the Democrat Bredesen’s fold next November. However, the poll is light on African American voters by about 5-6%, and if Democrats turn out that base like they did in the Alabama Senate race than the key for Blackburn to keep a ten plus margin lies in getting voter turnout among the GOP base and especially the Christian voter base that doesn’t get as motivated in non-Presidential years,” Gill adds.
Seventy percent of African-Americans polled preferred Bredesen, 17 percent preferred Blackburn, and 13 percent were undecided
Only 5 percent respondents in the poll were African-American, which is lower than historic turnouts among African-Americans in Tennessee general elections where African-American voters comprise between 10 percent and 12 percent of all votes cast.
If the poll results were weighted to reflect a general election voting population that is 11 percent, Blackburn’s margin over Bredesen drops to 7 points, 49 percent to 42 percent, with 9 percent undecided.
“Blackburn will also need to clearly define Bredesen as one who will toe the line with the liberal, national Democratic Party if she want to keep or widen that margin,” Gill continues.
“Bredesen will portray himself in the mold of a moderate to conservative Democrat and has said that the Democrat Senator he would model himself after is West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. That means Blackburn will need to make it clear that a ‘Manchin Democrat’ is one who voted AGAINST the Trump tax cuts, AGAINST confirmation of conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and FOR liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, among other things. A “Manchin Democrat” would also put liberal New York Senator Chuck Schumer in control of the U.S. Senate. None of that will appeal to voters in Red State Tennessee,” Gill notes.
The January 2018 Tennessee Star Poll results spell bad news for Republican primary candidate Fincher.
“From a primary standpoint, Fincher’s low name ID outside of West Tennessee is a huge anchor dragging down his general election numbers,” Gill notes.
“While he will improve his head to head numbers against Bredesen as more Republicans outside of West Tennessee get to know him, the fact that he is losing to Bredesen in current polling will make his fundraising efforts in the GOP Primary even more difficult and help Blackburn convince national GOP leaders and donors that her nomination is inevitable — which it probably is,” Gill concludes.
The addition of potential Independent candidate Clay Travis to the Blackburn-Bredesen matchup has no impact on the results. In contrast, a potential Travis candidacy serves to widen the gap between Bredesen and Fincher.
Travis grabs 5 percent of the vote versus 47 percent for Blackburn and 37 percent for Bredesen in a three person matchup.
The Fox Sports analyst’s numbers jump up to 10 percent in a three person matchup where Bredesen gets 39 percent of the vote and Fincher gets 34 percent.
On Tuesday we will report the results of the January 2018 Tennessee Star Poll for the Gubernatorial general election in which all five Republican candidates are posed in head-to-head matchups with likely Democratic nominee Karl Dean.
You can see the results of the January 2018 Tennessee Star Poll for the Tennessee U.S. Senate race only, here: