Republican Marsha Blackburn has pulled ahead of Democrat Phil Bredesen in the race for Senate in Tennessee, one of the few states where Democrats have a chance to pick up a seat this year, a new poll found.
The GOP representative leads the state’s former Democratic governor by 5 percentage points among likely voters, according to the NBC News/Marist poll released Tuesday. Blackburn garners 51 percent of support, while Bredesen draws 46 percent and 3 percent are undecided, the survey found. Her standing improved since September, when Bredesen led by 2 percentage points among likely voters in an NBC/Marist survey.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points for the likely voter sample.
Bredesen, who last won a statewide election in 2006, has run as a centrist and pledged to protect access to health care and social safety net programs. He has said he will side with President Donald Trump on some issues. Bredesen has mounted a strong bid to flip the red seat, which his friend, retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker, currently holds.
Blackburn has run an unabashedly pro-Trump campaign in a state the president won by about 25 percentage points in 2016. In the race’s closing days, she has joined the president in stoking concerns about immigration and tried to cast Bredesen as too liberal for the state.
As the race is one of a handful that will decide whether Republicans hold their Senate majority, it has drawn piles of outside cash and grown increasingly tense. Blackburn has echoed national Republicans in accusing Democrats of deploying “mob” tactics ahead of next Tuesday’s critical midterms. Throughout the race, Bredesen has tried to cast himself as a nonpartisan who will work with the GOP — an image bolstered by Corker’s praise for him.
Though Tennessee voters still view Bredesen more favorably than they do Blackburn, they do not like him as much as they did earlier in the race. Fifty-two percent of likely voters said they have a favorable impression of the former governor, while 39 percent responded that they see him unfavorably. Favorable views have fallen from 61 percent in September, while unfavorable impressions have climbed from 22 percent.
Blackburn has a 45 percent to 46 percent favorable to unfavorable rating, according to the survey.
Bredesen has good reason to tread carefully around Trump. More than half of likely voters in the state, 56 percent, approve of the job the president is doing, while 39 percent disapprove. Trump fares considerably better in Tennessee than he does nationwide.
The fight in Washington over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation also emerged as an issue in the race. The NBC/Marist survey shows why both Blackburn and Bredesen said they would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh, despite sexual misconduct accusations against the judge. Kavanaugh denied the claims.
In Tennessee, 42 percent of likely voters said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supported Kavanaugh’s ascent to the top U.S. court, versus 27 percent who said they prefer a candidate who opposed the justice. Twenty-seven percent answered that it does not make a difference in their vote.