New Poll Shows Democrat With Double Digit Lead In Tennessee Senate Race

Former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen appears to be poised to give Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn a run for her money in the Volunteer State.

If a new poll is accurate, Republicans may have something to worry about in the race to replace retiring Senator Bob Corker in Tennessee:

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen has a 10-point lead over U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn in the race to succeed U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, according to a new poll from Middle Tennessee State University.

The poll, released Thursday, found 45 percent of 600 registered Tennessee voters said they would choose Bredesen, a Democrat and former Nashville mayor, if the election were immediately held.

Blackburn, a Brentwood Republican, netted 35 percent, with another 17 percent of respondents saying they were not sure.

Three percent of respondents declined to answer.

The latest poll is the first survey released this year to suggest Bredesen has a double-digit lead over Blackburn.

The MTSU poll also found Bredesen had a considerable advantage over Blackburn in terms of getting support from voters on the other side of the aisle.

Forty-five percent of self-described independents said they would vote for Bredesen while only 33 percent of such voters said they would vote for Blackburn, the poll found.


In an interview, Ken Blake, director of the MTSU poll, said Bredesen’s support among Republicans is hardly shocking given his popularity within the party while governor from 2003 to 2011.

“I think some of that good will or social capital that he built up as governor may be paying dividends for him now,” Blake said.

With so many respondents still undecided on the race, Blake surmised that many Tennesseans are distracted by the consistent flow of news and developments out of Washington, D.C.

The MTSU poll did not include questions about other Republican candidates seeking the nomination for U.S. Senate, or favorability and name recognition for Blackburn and Bredesen.

In other news, the poll also found that President Trump’s job approval in the state stands at 50%, with 41% of respondents saying that they disapprove of the President’s job performance to date. This stands in somewhat stark contrast to the 2016 election when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by more than 600,000 votes. At the same time, it’s worth noting that Trump’s job approval in the state is far better than it is in nationwide polling. Other polling in this race earlier in March showed Bredesen leading Blackburn by five percentage points, while polling taken before March has shown the race to be tight with some polls shown Bredesen leading and others showing Blackburn leading.

To be fair, both Bredesen and Blackburn have primary challenges to get past before facing each other in a General Election, however, they are both seen as the frontrunners and likely winners in those races. That being said, the primary election isn’t until early August so it’s possible that one or both of them could find themselves on the losing end of a primary fight. Since the primary opposition in both cases is rather thin, though, it seems likely that both candidates will easily dispose of their respective opponents and win the nomination of their party. Assuming that happens, this poll suggests that the General Election battle that follows could end up being far more competitive than it would have been had Corker ran for re-election as had originally seemed to be the case.

All of this is relevant, of course, because it’s taking place against the backdrop of the battle for control of the Senate in the 2018 midterm elections. On paper at least, the Democrats have always seemed to be at a disadvantage given the fact that they have far more seats to defend than Republicans do in this election cycle. More importantly, a significant number of those seats are in states that have traditionally gone Republican, or states which President Trump carried in the 2016 election. Indeed, as of now five of the eight seats that are currently listed as “Toss-up” races by RealClearPolitics are held by Democrats while only three are held by Republicans. While much could change between now and November, that suggests that Democrats face an uphill battle in getting to the net gain of two seats they would need to gain control of the Senate. That’s why the potential for a real race in Tennessee, which would have been securely in the GOP camp had Corker run for re-election, could end up being so important.


FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Blackburn? That’s the cute stupid one, right?

  2. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    That’s relatively good numbers for Bredensen. But he is a former governor with great name recognition and does not get 50% of the vote in the polls. This number is far less promising than it looks.

  3. Lynn says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: “Blackburn? That’s the cute stupid one, right?”

    The “cute” is irrelevant; the “stupid” isn’t.

  4. MBunge says:

    According to The Morning Consult, Trump’s approval in Tennessee is at 55%.


  5. Joe says:

    Marsha has a purse full of telecom lobbyist checks, and she thinks that we will have forgotten the repeated screwing of Tennessee constituents over these years. She’s the reason why Chattanooga’s terrific municipal broadband will never be expanded beyond it’s current footprint. Marsha is the water-carrier for big telecom’s anti-net neutrality in Tennessee.

    As a reliable GOP voter in Tennessee for 30 years, it will give me great pleasure to vote against her in the general election. Marsha does not deserve a seat in the Senate. I don’t care if her loss flips the Senate or not. I have no confidence in continuing with Mitch McConnell as majority leader.

  6. Kathy says:

    I think it was Ray Bradbury who said it’s risky to make predictions, especially about the future. But we keep seeing polls and special elections where Democrats over-perform, especially in GOP strongholds, even when they don’t win. At some point, all these data points do become a trend.

    The time from now until the midterm election is, in political terms, an eternity, composed of smaller eternities. I get that. But if I were the GOP, I’d be brainstorming how to avoid a bloodbath in November.

  7. walt moffett says:

    Sounds like an incumbent might have to actually earn re-election, which is good. Hope to read about many more vigorous, contested elections.

  8. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Kathy: What worries me are most the people predicting the wondrous blue wave were also absolutely convinced Trump could never win

  9. Mister Bluster says:

    …if I were the GOP, I’d be brainstorming how to avoid a bloodbath in November.

    I think they should back Trump’s tariff policy so it is implemented in time for soybean farmers to get nothing for their harvest right around election time.

    Republican leaders in Congress (that’s the United States Senate and the US House of Representatives Geenos in case you forgot) should also support Trump in his efforts to bushwhack his newly appointed Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow (3 days on the job. how long will he last…).

    Trump Urges $100 Billion in New China Tariffs, Stoking Tensions
    Trump chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow and other administration officials have spent the past two days trying to tamp down fears of a trade war.

    And by all means Congressmen McConnell and Ryan should muster their parties stalwarts to get behind the President as he defends himself against charges of paying off a porn star to keep quiet about (fill in the blank).

    Instead of wasting their time posting on OTB, Bungles and Goon Boy and TinyMind 0.000000000000000001 and Johnny Telephone should be petitioning their Savior to go ahead and talk to Mueller and protest his innocence.

    It’s all Fake News! Mueller can’t touch him! Right guys?

  10. super70s says:

    He’s going to “clean her plow” as former Gov. Ned McWherter (D) once put it about his Republican opponent.

    Blackburn and her surrogates have made several snide remarks about Bredesen’s age, I don’t know how well that plays with the older Republican-voting crowd (and besides he’s only 3 years older than El Presidente).

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:


    So what you are telling us is that Trump has managed to drop almost 6 points – in one of the reddest states in the nation – within the space of just 14 months …

    Thanks for playing .. 🙄