MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A new poll gives Democrat Phil Bredesen an early but significant lead in the race for U.S. Senate.
Bredesen holds a 10 point lead over Republican Marsha Blackburn in the contest for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Bob Corker, according to the latest Middle Tennessee State University poll.
Bredesen was Governor of Tennessee from 2003-2011. Blackburn has been in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2003.
"I think they're going to flood the market and direct mail," political consultant Steven Reid said.
With almost three decades of political campaign experience, Reid said the fight for Bob Corker's Senate seat keeps heating up.
Reid said the race, which is already getting national attention, will likely get even more, with figures of $50 million to $100 million worth in political spending rumored to take place in Tennessee.
"This is a chance to flip a red state," Reid said. "It could very well change the makeup of the Senate."
The poll (which surveyed 600 registered voters between March 22-29) asked state voters which of the two candidates they would vote for if the election was held tomorrow. Bredesen received support from 45 percent of the people who responded; Blackburn received support from 35 percent of the people who responded.
"Bredesen is off to a good start, and Blackburn has some ground to make up," said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU poll. "But neither candidate has a majority, and with 17 percent undecided, four months to go until the primary and another three after that until the general, this is still either candidate's race to win – or lose."
Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll, said Bredesen appears significantly more successful at attracting voters from outside his own party than Blackburn is at attracting voters from outside hers.
"Bredesen attracted more cross-party voting," Reineke said. "Twenty percent of Republicans said they would vote for Bredesen, while only 5 percent of Democrats said they would vote for Blackburn. Our polling during Bredesen's time as governor showed him consistently attracting appreciable support among Republicans and independents as well as among his fellow Democrats. That record may be paying dividends for him now."
The Bredesen campaign did not put out a statement speaking directly to the new MTSU poll. However, a spokesperson had this to say:
Blackburn's campaign released this statement about the poll:
The MTSU poll also looked at the Tennessee Gubernatorial race.
Since the field remains crowded, the poll asked Tennessee voters to respond if they have a positive or negative opinion of certain candidates.
The poll found the early favorites in the election are Republicans Randy Boyd, Diane Black, and Beth Harwell as well as Democrat Karl Dean.
The MTSU poll also asked voters how they feel President Donald Trump is doing in the White House.
Exactly half of Tennessee voters approve of Trump, while 41 percent disapprove. Those numbers are virtually unchanged from the previous MTSU poll, which was conducted in October.
Reid said Blackburn's strategy is to appeal to Trump voters.
"We don't know where Donald Trump's approval rating will be in November but right now he is very popular in Tennessee and that's something that can't be taken lightly," Reid said.