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Tennessee’s Senate Race Is Either A Tie Or A Blowout, Depending On Who You Ask

The Blackburn campaign claims that when Bredesen was governor, he covered up sexual harassment allegations against an aide. Fact-checkers have rated the claim as "half true."
Adam Brimer
/
University of Tennessee
The Blackburn campaign claims that when Bredesen was governor, he covered up sexual harassment allegations against an aide. Fact-checkers have rated the claim as "half true."

Hear the radio version of this story.

Vanderbilt University has released a new poll that shows the Senate race between former Governor Phil Bredesen and Congressman Marsha Blackburn remains too close to call.

It's the latest in a flurry of polls. Some have shown Bredesen, the Democratic nominee, holding a slight lead; others have the Republican candidate, Blackburn, pulling far ahead — discrepancies that may be based on assumptions about which voters will actually cast ballots.

The latest Vanderbilt survey, released Thursday morning, gives Bredesen a 1-percentage point edge over Blackburn. It's one of many that have shown the race to be well within the margin of error, says John Geer, the political scientist who oversees the poll.

"The turnout is still going to drive the result," he says. "And I think calling the race a toss-up is exactly a fair assessment. I don't think that even the Blackburn people would dispute that very much."

Vanderbilt surveyed 800 registered voters statewide in the days following the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, an event that energized many Republicans and left many Democrats upset at Bredesen, who endorsed the nominee.

Geer says the Vanderbilt poll is weighted toward conservative voters, yet they found 13 percent of Republicans say they plan to cross party lines and vote for Bredesen. Only 5 percent of Democrats prefer Blackburn.

The poll also found Bredesen holds a 12-percentage point among women. That's slightly less than the 13-point edge Blackburn has with men, but pollsters note that women tend to vote in greater numbers.

Higher turnout among women — or a wave of young voters angry at President Donald Trump — could tilt the race more in Bredesen's favor.

But other pollsters have assumed turnout will be more even heavily tilted toward Republicans. They tend to estimate big leads for Blackburn, sometimes in the double digits.

An earlier version of this story misstated who the Vanderbilt Poll surveyed. It was registered voters, not likely voters.

Copyright 2018 WPLN News

Chas joined WPLN in 2015 after eight years with The Tennessean, including more than five years as the newspaper's statehouse reporter.Chas has also covered communities, politics and business in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Chas grew up in South Carolina and attended Columbia University in New York, where he studied economics and journalism. Outside of work, he's a dedicated distance runner, having completed a dozen marathons