Whew: Tennessee poll has Marsha Blackburn up five after trailing in August

Been a little worried about this race, especially with McSally’s grip on Arizona slipping. Chatter among political pros in the media lately has been that Missouri looks good for Republicans but Tennessee — Tennessee! — is surprisingly iffy. The last poll of the state had Phil Bredesen up a point after trailing badly at the start of the month. It seemed as though the Kavanaugh effect might have propelled Marsha Blackburn to a comfortable-ish lead, only to fade in the second half of the month. Gulp.

Continued strong numbers for Bredesen would also feel ominous because of what they might imply nationally. Granted, Blackburn’s not an incumbent, and granted, Bredesen is a centrist Democrat with lots of name recognition, but seeing Tennessee slip away would portend bad things in Nevada and Missouri and of course Arizona. The map is so tough for Democrats that they might need to flip Tennessee just to have a shot at a majority. If you believe the rumblings lately, they have a shot.

But after reading this I feel a little better.

The poll shows Blackburn with the support of 51 percent of likely voters, compared with 46 percent support for Bredesen. Among all registered voters, her advantage narrows to 49 percent to 46 percent…

Among likely voters, 45 percent have a favorable impression of Blackburn, while 46 percent have an unfavorable one. That’s down from a 46 percent favorable/ 36 percent unfavorable rating two months ago. Blackburn has seen her popularity drop among Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Like Blackburn, Bredesen’s favorability has also taken a hit in the closing two months of the election, but he remains significantly more popular than his GOP opponent. Fifty-two percent of likely voters have a favorable impression of him, while 39 percent disagree. That’s a net +13 percent, down from a net +39 percent rating in the previous poll.

Good lord. The Republican candidate is underwater on favorability in a blood red state? That’s one weak nominee. I knew there was bad blood between her and center-right Corker-ites but I didn’t realize how bad. I’m tempted to blame Trump — but in reality Trump may be the only thing propping Blackburn up:

Normally the GOP doesn’t need the president to take valuable time out of his pre-midterm schedule to hit the stump in Tennessee, of all farking places, but POTUS may have to drag Blackburn over the finish line. And so:

President Donald Trump will spend part of the final Sunday before next week’s midterm election in Tennessee one more time, announcing plans to hold a campaign rally in Chattanooga.

The visit will mark Trump’s third trip to Tennessee this year to stump for Republican U.S. Senate nominee Marsha Blackburn and his fifth overall trip to the Volunteer State since becoming president.

That news was reported yesterday, before this new NBC survey showing Blackburn ahead was released. I don’t know what Republican consultants are seeing in the internal data lately that would have them whispering that Tennessee is still in play and wanting Trump to swing by the state on Sunday, but it ain’t good.

And don’t forget … the Taylor factor:

One fascinating tidbit from the NBC poll. Remember that little Kavanaugh matter we were all so interested in a few weeks ago? Bredesen, fearing Heidi Heitkamp’s fate, announced that he would have voted to confirm the nominee, which I believe makes him the only Democratic Senate candidate this fall apart from Joe Manchin to do so. That was obviously calculated to endear him to Tennessee’s Republican majority, gambling that local Democrats would soon forgive and forget his sin in the interests of victory. Bredesen’s calculations ended up being half-right. Not only did Tennessee Democrats not hold his Kavanaugh endorsement against him, they view him slightly more favorably now (86 points on net) than they did in August (83). It’s Republicans who have turned on him: Whereas in August he was viewed only ever so slightly unfavorably (a single net point), now GOPers are sharply negative on him at -43 net.

The takeaway from all of that, I think, is that the Kavanaugh maneuvering ended up being mostly irrelevant. In all likelihood Republicans turned sour on Bredesen simply because Election Day was approaching and it was time for the two sides to go to their respective partisan corners for the big fight. It may be, though, that his negative ratings among GOPers would have been much worse if not for his Kavanaugh support. He’s not winning right now but an upset is still very much on the table. If it happens, his decision to pander to Republican voters on the big SCOTUS vote might seal his victory just as Heitkamp’s refusal sealed her doom.

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