Poll: Democrat takes the lead in Tennessee Senate race against Republican Marsha Blackburn

Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen is effectively tied with GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn in Trump country

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 18, 2018 4:35PM (EDT)

Marsha Blackburn (Getty/Jim Watson)
Marsha Blackburn (Getty/Jim Watson)

A recent poll of the Tennessee Senate election found that the Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen holds a one-point lead over Republican Marsha Blackburn.

The survey from Vanderbilt University found that 44 percent of respondents want to vote for Bredesen and 43 percent of respondents want to vote for Blackburn, according to the Nashville Tennesseean. Because the margin for error is plus or minus 4.9 percent, this means that Bredesen (a former Tennessee governor) and Blackburn (a congresswoman) are statistically tied. In previous polls, the difference between the two candidates has fluctuated wildly from Bredesen having a 10 point lead to Blackburn having a 14 point lead. More recent polls have tended to lean toward Blackburn, however. Prior to the recent University of Vanderbilt poll, the most recent survey to give Bredesen a lead had been taken by CNN and covered mid-September.

One distinctive characteristic of these surveys is that they show Bredesen significantly outpacing Blackburn among female voters. Only 37 percent of female respondents said they would prefer Blackburn, compared to 49 percent who said they were going to vote for Bredesen. By contrast 50 percent of male voters said they would vote for Blackburn, compared to 37 percent who said they would vote for Bredesen.

One factor that may have contributed to Bredesen's sudden rise is the unexpected influence of pop star Taylor Swift, who earlier this month ended her traditionally apolitical stance to endorse Bredesen for the Senate election and Democratic candidate Jim Cooper for the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, Swift took to Instagram to urge her fans to engage in early voting, writing that "something I wish I knew about when I was 18 and voting for the first time: EARLY VOTING. It makes it so quick and easy to go and cast your vote before November 6. Early voting starts TODAY in Tennessee and goes to Nov 1. You can check out your state’s early voting dates at the link in my bio."

When she endorsed Bredesen and Cooper earlier this month, Swift cited her support for LGBT issues and her concern about Blackburn's socially conservative voting record. "In the past I've been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now," Swift wrote at the time.

Bredesen, for his part, has been trying to characterize himself as a different kind of Democrat in order to appeal to Tennessee's traditionally conservative voting base. He recently praised President Donald Trump's skills as a negotiator and said he would like to meet with the president to discuss an idea for lowering American prescription drug costs, according to the Nashville Tennessean. His argument was that America should pay whatever price drug manufacturers determine so long as it is line with the price paid by other countries. Bredesen pointed to the cheaper drug costs in nations like Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom as proof that American consumers are being overcharged and that the government has the ability to spare them these unnecessary pharmaceutical costs.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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