A new Tennessee Star poll reveals that former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam could face a serious challenge if he seeks the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Lamar Alexander. As noted previously in the Tennessee Star, Haslam’s approval lags far below the support level for President Donald Trump, Senator Marsha Blackburn and Governor Bill Lee. And now it appears that even in a potentially crowded primary field Haslam would start off within reach of a significant challenge by conservative Congressman Mark Green.
In a prospective matchup against Green, former Economic Development Commissioner and current Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, and west Tennessee businessman Jeff Webb, Haslam secures 28.7% support, Green 12.7%, Hagerty .9%, and Webb 1.3% with a huge number of voters (56.3%) undecided.
Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill points out that such a huge undecided number among likely Republican primary voters with Haslam having served the past 8 years as Governor should be big red flag that Haslam shouldn’t ignore. “The other 3 potential opponents are not as well known, and voters would clearly like to learn more about them before they decide to support Haslam.”
The Triton Polling survey was conducted over four days (April 13-16) and polled 1003 likely Republican Party primary voters statewide. It has a margin of error of 3.1%.
The Tennessee Star poll also surveyed a head to head matchup between Haslam and Green. The results indicate that Green is within striking distance of Haslam — with Haslam at 39.7% and Green at 30.4%, with the remaining 29.9% undecided. Again, the huge undecided number with the name recognition advantage that the former Governor enjoys indicates a potentially tough Senate campaign if Haslam runs.
Former Governor Haslam has not announced whether or not he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2020, though many political observers believe he will run and announce soon. “Haslam clearly has a huge fundraising advantage since he can raise all he needs at the anytime teller machine,” Gill says. “An opponent doesn’t necessarily need to spend as much as Haslam in a Republican primary in order to win, but he or she DOES need to spend enough to get their own message out to the voter. That probably means a minimum of $10-15 million in direct campaign spending and assistance from outside groups.”
If Haslam opts out of the Senate race, Gill expects four or five candidates to run in a completely open GOP primary, with Green, Hagerty and Dr. Manny Sethi among the likely candidates. Green’s fellow Congressmen Chuck Fleischmann and David Kustoff might also take a serious look at the race.