Poll: Blackburn up 5 in Tennessee Senate race

Poll: Blackburn up 5 in Tennessee Senate race
© Greg Nash

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTennessee New Members 2019 McConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip Rick Scott appears with GOP senators, ignores voter fraud question as recount continues MORE (R-Tenn.) has a five-point edge against former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-Tenn.) in The Volunteer State’s race to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi murder: report  McConnell, Flake clash over protecting Mueller probe Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails MORE (R-Tenn.), according to a new NBC News/Marist poll released Tuesday.

The poll shows that 51 percent of likely Tennessee voters support Blackburn, while 46 percent support Bredesen. That margin is just within the poll’s margin of error.

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That is a marked improvement for Blackburn, who was behind with likely voters 46-48 in the same poll from September. A Vanderbilt University poll released recently showed Bredesen with a one-point lead, but that margin fell well within the margin of error. 

Blackburn and Bredesen shore up support among traditional Republican and Democratic voting blocs, respectively. Blackburn holds double-digit leads among white evangelicals, voters without a college degree, white voters and men, while Bredesen leads among African Americans, college graduates and women. Bredesen also has a 24-point edge among Independent voters. 

Both Blackburn and Bredesen’s favorability ratings have taken hits since September’s poll after the two candidates exchanged a flurry of negative ads. Blackburn has a net-negative favorability rating, with 45 percent of likely voters viewing her favorably, while 46 percent have an unfavorable view. She had a net-positive favorability rating by a 10-point margin in September.

Bredesen, who won all 95 of Tennessee’s counties in his 2006 gubernatorial reelection bid, has a net-positive favorability rating, with 52 percent of likely voters viewing him favorably, while 39 percent have an unfavorable view. He had a net-positive favorability rating by a 39-point margin in September.

Bredesen’s slip in the NBC News/Marist poll appears to be a result of disaffected Republicans coming home to their party. He has a net-negative favorability rating by a 43 percent margin among Republicans, though it was just net-negative by a one-point margin in September. 

Moreover, President TrumpDonald John TrumpMia Love pulls ahead in Utah race as judge dismisses her lawsuit Trump administration denies exploring extradition of Erdoğan foe for Turkey Trump congratulates Kemp, says Abrams will have 'terrific political future' MORE’s approval rating in the state has improved markedly since September’s poll. He has a net-positive approval rating, with 56 percent of likely voters approving of the job he’s doing as president, while 39 percent disapprove. He had a net-positive approval rating by a four-point margin in September. 

The president has gone all in for Blackburn, tweeting after the Republican primary in August, “Marsha Blackburn had a BIG win last night in the Tennessee primary for U.S. Senate. She is an outstanding person & great supporter of mine. Congratulations Marsha, we need you very badly in the Senate to vote for our agenda. Your next opponent will vote against all we are doing!” 

While The Cook Political Report rates the race as a “toss up,” an average of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics, which does not yet include the NBC News/Marist poll, has Blackburn up 6.5 points.

Democrats view Tennessee as one of only a handful of possible pick up opportunities in a Senate map that has them defending 10 seats in states Trump won in 2016. Were Republicans to successfully defend the seat, it would greatly increase their chances of maintaining or expanding on their 51-49 majority. 

The NBC News/Marist poll surveyed 471 likely voters from Oct. 23-27 and has a margin of error of +/- 5.7 percent.