Tennessee Democrat Bredesen has edge over Republican Blackburn in race for Corker's Senate seat, poll says

  • A new poll shows Tennessee voters would favor Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen over his opponent, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, in the 2018 Senate race.
  • The poll adds to an already murky outlook for Republican candidates in the midterm election.
  • The seat is opening up because incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Corker will not seek reelection.
Phil Bredesen
T. J. Kirkpatrick | Getty Images
Phil Bredesen

If the midterm elections were held today, Tennessee voters would pick their state's leading Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate over his likely Republican opponent, even though most voters in the state approve of President Donald Trump, a new poll finds.

Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen is likely to face Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn in the race for Tennessee's open Senate seat in the 2018 elections.

The seat is opening up because incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Corkerwill not seek re-election. Corker had reportedly reconsidered his retirement, but eventually settled on not running.

The last Democrat to represent Tennessee in the Senate was Jim Sasser, who lost a bid for re-election in 1994 after serving three terms.

In the poll, conducted by the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling, 46 percent of voters said they would vote for Bredesen, while 41 percent favored Blackburn. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Thirteen percent of the roughly 1,000 surveyed voters remained undecided. Of the voter pool, 33 percent identified as Democrats, 43 percent identified as Republicans and 23 percent identified as independent or other.

All in all, the latest polls and forecasts suggest a rapidly tightening race for the Senate candidates in Tennessee, a deeply red state that Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016.

Other polls have painted a muddled picture of Tennessee voters' views of the race. Oregon-based Triton Polling & Research found Blackburn with a 9-percentage-point lead over Bredesen, while Florida-based Gravis Marketing gave Bredesen a 2-point edge.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election analytics firm, labeled the Tennessee race a "toss-up."

Bredesen, a two-term governor who won all of Tennessee's 95 counties when he ran for re-election in 2006, is running on fixing the health-care system, the opioid epidemic and the economy.

His campaign website touts his track record as a former CEO of a publicly traded company, a health insurer called HealthAmerica that he founded and that was later acquired.

Blackburn, who has served in elected office since 1998, is a staunch supporter of Trump and is running on repealing Obamacare, promoting pro-life and Second Amendment issues, and cutting back on government spending.

The PPP poll found that 54 percent of respondents approved of Trump's job as president so far, while 42 percent responded negatively to his performance. Four percent were unsure. As for health care, nearly half of respondents — 49 percent — favored keeping the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in place. Forty-two percent wanted it repealed.

The latest data from the Center for Responsive Politics show Blackburn has $4,643,827 in cash on hand. Bredesen has $493,546 in cash on hand and has raised $509,954 ahead of the Aug. 2 primaries.

While some national polls have suggested that voters are in favor of Democrats winning over the Senate in 2018, they still face a challenging layout, with 26 of the 34 seats up for grabs this year belonging to Democrats or senators who caucus with Democrats.

— CNBC's John Schoen contributed to this article.