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Poll: Tennessee Senate Race Is a Dead Heat

Marsha Blackburn and her opponent for the Tennessee Senate, former Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Associated Press

A poll released by NBC/Marist on Thursday shows that the Tennessee Senate race between GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) and Democrat former Gov. Phil Bredesen is a dead heat.

Bredesen leads Blackburn among likely voters by two points, 48 percent to 46 percent, which is within the poll’s 5.1 percent margin of error.

The poll of 538 likely voters was conducted between August 25 and August 28.

The Cook Political Report currently rates the Tennessee Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) as a “toss-up.”

President Trump easily won the state in 2016 by 26 points.

Bredesen has attempted to define himself as a fair-minded, non-partisan who will judge President Trump’s proposed policies and nominees based on their merits, but he has had a hard time selling that proposition, given that he was hand-picked by the highly partisan Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to run for the Senate seat this year.

In addition, while Blackburn has enthusiastically supported President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, Bredesen has remained silent, refusing to condemn the recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing theatrics of his fellow Democrats.

Top line responses in the NBC/Marist Poll were reported for likely voters, which was a subset of the larger sample of adult poll respondents (940) and a further subset of registered voters (730).

The demographics of the party affiliation of respondents included in the likely voter sample skewed more Democrat than the Cook Partisan Voter Index average of Republican +11 points for the state’s nine congressional districts.

Republicans had only a six-point advantage in the poll’s sample of 538 likely voters. Thirty-five percent of poll respondents identified as Republican, while 29 percent identified as Democrat, and 35 percent identified as independent.

Forty-nine percent identified as conservative or very conservative in political ideology, whereas 26 percent identified as moderate, and 25 percent identified as liberal.

The poll’s sample of 538 likely voters skewed more heavily urban than other recent Tennessee polls.

Fifty-six percent were from the Nashville area, the Memphis area, or what the poll described as “urban east,” presumably Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Only 44 percent of respondents were from “rural east” and “central/west.”

Tennessee is well known for its three specific geographic divisions, known as the three “grand divisions,” which are featured in the three stars of the state’s flag: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee.

The poll did not provide that sort of geographic breakdown of respondents commonly seen in most polls of Tennessee.

Instead, it offered these geographic breakdowns of respondents:

Rural East 17 percent
Urban East 20 percent
Nashville Area 21 percent
Central/West 27 percent
Memphis Area 15 percent

Whereas 78 percent of the sample respondents were white, 14 percent were black, 3 percent were Latino, and 5 percent were “other.”

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