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RRH Tennessee Senate Poll: Alexander Leads Carr 41-29

by: shamlet

Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 11:00:00 AM EDT

Please email us at redracinghorses at yahoo dot com if you would like this exact same information in PDF format.

One week ahead of the Tennessee Senate Republican Primary, a Red Racing Horses (RRH) survey of the race shows incumbent Lamar Alexander with a solid, but not insurmountable, lead over his principal challenger, State Rep. Joe Carr. Alexander takes 41% to Carr's 29%, while former Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn trails with 5%, and a scattering of other candidates take 5%. A surprisingly high 20% of the voters in the survey are still undecided at this late date. The survey also found that the state's other Senator, Bob Corker, would have lukewarm support for a presidential run in 2016 from his home state. The IVR survey of 400 likely voters was conducted from July 28-30 by Red Racing Horses using calls from PMI inc. of Marianna, Fla, and has a 5% margin of error. All survey design and data analysis is the sole responsibility of RRH. The poll was funded with generous donations from RRH readers; Red Racing Horses has no connection to any candidate or organization active in this race. For inquiries about this poll, please visit or email us at:

Full Results and Crosstabs Over the Fold...

shamlet :: RRH Tennessee Senate Poll: Alexander Leads Carr 41-29

Senate Topline:
Alexander - 41%
Carr - 29%
Flinn - 5%
Other - 5%
Undecided - 20%

With a week to go, Alexander has a reasonably solid 12-point lead. However, the high number of undecided voters should be a cause for concern. If Carr can bring a significant percentage of those voters to the polls, and take some votes currently going to the other candidates on the ballot, he has a chance to pull off the upset. However, it is more likely that a significant percentage of the "undecided voters" will simply stay home next week, slightly boosting Alexander's margin.

Corker 2016?
Will Support - 25%
May Support - 40%
Will Not Support - 26%
Other - 9%

The state's other Senator, Bob Corker, has been rumored to be considering a presidential run. Obviously, Tennessee's primary is not likely to be a pivotal contest in deciding the GOP nomination, but the voters who know Corker best offer a lukewarm endorsement of his long-shot bid. While Corker would start with a sizeable bloc of support, most Tennesseans seem eager to consider other options.


Demographics Table:
Male - 47%
Female - 53%
Under 45 - 14%
Between 45 and 64 - 44%
65 plus - 42%

Keeping with RRH's philosophical policy against unnecessary weighting, this survey was weighted only for age and geography. Weighting for age was done to decrease the percentage of seniors in the sample, which in the raw data was higher than the expected electorate. The racial breakdown is not informative as the sample (and expected electorate) are both overwhelmingly white.

Geography/Grand Division:
East TN - 43%
Middle TN - 35%
West TN - 22%

The sample was weighted by geography because the raw data under-sampled Middle Tennessee. These ratios are based on the average number of Republican general election votes for Governor, Senator, and House in each of the Grand Divisions from 2004-08, with some minor changes to account for generally high GOP primary turnout in historically Republican East Tennessee.

Party Registration:
Republican - 84%
Democratic - 16%

As one would expect, the overwhelming majority of participants in this Republican (open) Primary are registered Republicans.

Tea Party - 25%
Conservative but not Tea Party - 56%
Not Conservative - 15%

While the majority of voters identify as conservative, only about a quarter consider themselves Tea Party members or supporters.

Under 4530%30%2%2%35%
45 to 6444%27%5%6%18%
65 Plus41%31%8%4%16%

Interestingly, there is no real gender gap in this survey; men and women break at roughly the same rate between Alexander and Carr. Alexander also leads with voters over 45, while those under 45 break almost evenly between Alexander, Carr, and being undecided.

Tea Party15%54%4%6520%
Conservative non-TP51%25%7%1%16%
Not Conservative45%9%1%14%31%

Democratic crossover vote is essentially irrelevant in this race, as registered Republicans break for Alexander at nearly the same rate as the overall voting population. Democratic support seems to be key to propping up the vote shares for the four unnamed "other" candidates; it is questionable whether these voters will turn out next week. As expected, Tea Party voters break very strongly for Carr, while non-Tea Party voters go heavily for Alexander.

East TN48%24%4%4%9%
Middle TN29%44%4%5%17%
West TN43%16%11%6%24%

Carr's support is clustered in his native Middle Tennessee, while Alexander has stronger support in the state's East and West. Carr is also hurt by a split in the anti-Alexander vote with Flinn in West Tennessee.

Support in Tennessee's Grand Divisons. Blue - 20+ point Alexander lead; Green - 10+ point Carr lead


RRH placed 5000 calls via IVR operator PMI Inc. on July 28, 29, and 30, 2014 to voters who had cast ballots in two of the last three statewide Republican primaries in Tennessee. We considered this population a rough approximation of those likely to vote in this year's primary.  The calls used the script seen at the end of this document. Respondents who indicated a disinclination to vote in Question 1 or did not complete the topline response (Question 2) were not included in the survey. These manipulations resulted in a total survey population of 400 likely voters. Respondents who did not complete Question 3 or 6 had their responses marked as "other", while those that did not complete Question 4 or 5 were demographically typed using the best available information in the voter file. Geographic and party registration information was derived from the information available in the voter file. As RRH has a philosophical preference for raw data over our own assumptions, we strove to limit weighting wherever possible. The data were weighted by age (to reduce an oversampling of senior voters in the raw data) and by geographical Grand Division (to reduce an undersampling of Middle Tennessee). Random deletion was not used as a method of weighting. Funding for this poll was provided entirely through the generous donations of RRH readers; RRH did not receive donations from any candidate, campaign, party, or independent organization attempting to affect the outcome of this race.


A week ahead of the Tennessee Republican Senate Primary, a Red Racing Horses (RRH) Poll shows that Sen. Lamar Alexander is in good, but not great, position to win renomination for a third term. While he is leading his principal opponent, State Representative Joe Carr, by 12 points, Alexander is still below 50%, and the high number of undecided voters in the race leaves the door at least slightly open to an upset. The following data set presents a profile of undecided voters:

Undecided Voters:
Republicans - 76%
Democrats - 23%
Tea Party - 26%
Conservative but not Tea Party - 46%
Not Conservative - 24%
East TN - 41%
Middle TN - 31%
West TN - 28%

Simply put, the undecided voters look very much like the electorate as a whole. As a result, none of the campaigns should likely expect a massive bump from late-deciding voters in the current electorate. The only concentrations of undecided voters appear to be registered Democrats (who may not vote) and those from West Tennesee (who are perhaps undecided between Carr and Flinn). However, these groups are not likely to break heavily enough to swing the election.  If Carr is to pull the upset next week, he needs to dramatically change the electorate by bringing out his Tea Party and Middle Tennessee base, cut into Alexander's margins in West and East Tennesee (where Carr is little-known and thus has low support), and consolidate support from those voting for the other non-Alexander candidates. While an upset is theoretically possible, Carr will need almost everything to go his way. As for Alexander, a strong strategy for the next week is likely to focus on bringing out his base of moderately conservative voters, particularly in East Tennessee, and making sure George Flinn remains an option for Tea Party voters in West Tennessee to scatter their votes away from Carr.  However, at this late point, staying the course with current campaign plans seems a viable option for Alexander as well.

About Red Racing Horses:

Red Racing Horses ( is a collaborative, Republican-oriented blog focusing on horserace politics. We offer daily news updates on the American political landscape and stimulating discussion of upcoming elections. RRH is run by a team of eight volunteer hobbyists, and our website and polling are funded by generous donations from our readers. We have conducted polls of congressional general elections in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida, and a Senate primary in Mississippi. RRH is not affiliated with any campaign or political advocacy organization.

Poll Script:

1. There is a Republican primary election for the US Senate on August 7. Are you likely to vote in it?
Press 1 if you are likely to vote
Press 2 if you are not likely to vote
2. In the Republican primary, are you most likely to vote for Lamar Alexander, Joe Carr, George Flinn, or another candidate on the ballot - or are you totally undecided?
Press 1 if you are most likely to vote for Lamar Alexander
Press 2 if you are most likely to vote for Joe Carr
Press 3 if you are most likely to vote for George Flinn
Press 4 if you are most likely to vote for another candidate on the ballot
Press 5 if you are totally undecided
3. Do you consider yourself a member or supporter of the Tea Party?
Press 1 if you consider yourself a Tea Party member or supporter
Press 2 if you consider yourself conservative, but not a member or supporter of the Tea Party
Press 3 if you do not consider yourself politically conservative
4. For statistical purposes, please let us know your gender:
Press 1 if you are male
Press 2 if you are female
5. For statistical purposes, please let us know your age:
Press 1 if you are between 18 and 44
Press 2 if you are between 45 and 64
Press 3 if you are 65 plus
6. Tennessee's other Senator, Bob Corker, is not up for re-election this year, but has indicated he may consider running for President in 2016. Would you consider supporting his campaign?
Press 1 if you would likely support Bob Corker in the Republican primary for President in 2016.
Press 2 if you may support Bob Corker under the right circumstances, but are more likely to back another candidate in the Republican primary for President in 2016.
Press 3 if you would not support Bob Corker in the Republican primary for President in 2016.

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Especially with other random dudes in the mix
I don't see how Carr makes up that margin in a week.  It's just not enough time even assuming he can do it.  

I'm guessing the final numbers are like Alexander 50, Carr 35, other 15.  



22, Male, Conservative Republican, TN-08 (home), VA-01 (college)

[ Parent ]
Carr's problem
Carr was almost totally unknown when he started. It's hard to put together a winning statewide campaign from that position.

Scott Walker 2016

Lamar oughta be thankful the SCF et al
Burned thru a lot of $ in KY & MS they now can't/didn't throw into TN  

[ Parent ]
The regional breakdown makes a lot of sense.
Not only is Carr from Middle Tennessee, but the Nashville area is the epicenter of the Tea Party in Tennessee. His home of Rutherford County is especially tea-flavored.

22, Male, Conservative Republican, TN-08 (home), VA-01 (college)

East TN has been the long time center of TN establishment.
So Nashville area, particularly Rutherford would be the logical center of any movement to replace the TN establishment with new blood.

43 Male Republican, Maryland Heights, MO Pattonville School District, Maryland Heights Fire District (MO-2). Previously lived in both Memphis and Nashville.

[ Parent ]
Is East TN "the long time center of (the) TN establishment"?
Or just the Baker family and their proteges (Alexander, Haslam, Corker)?

[ Parent ]
all of them started in East TN
Most of East TN has been Republican since the Civil War.
(They were Whigs before then.)

Baker & Alexander were both first elected to a state wide office when East TN cast more votes in the R primary than West & Middle combined.

43 Male Republican, Maryland Heights, MO Pattonville School District, Maryland Heights Fire District (MO-2). Previously lived in both Memphis and Nashville.

[ Parent ]
Off the top of my head
Every R TN Statewide office holder has either been from East TN or Memphis except Bill Frist, who pretty much walked straight out of nowhere into his Senate seat in 1994.

24, Conservatarian Republican CA-12
Liberals dream things that never were and ask why not.  Conservatives shout back "Because it won't work"

[ Parent ]
Don Sundquist and Winfield Dunn
were from Memphis.

Fred Thompson went to law school in Memphis and was born in rural TN but hang out more in DC and Nashville.

Folks Howard Baker recently died. The modern GOP party in TN began when he decided to run for US senate in 1964. Here in TN there is before and after Howard Baker.

A lot like Jack Danforth in MO in 1968 AG run. Before Danforth there was a long pause in GOP statewide success in MO. Danforth, however, did not have to build a lot of grass roots up like Baker did. Baker and his allies spent time, effort and money building the GOP at the grassroots in TN.  

[ Parent ]
Actually Thompson went to Vanderbilt Law
He went to what was then Memphis state for undergrad.

[ Parent ]
Best of both worlds
as Fred got a Vandy degree after a Tiger education.  

[ Parent ]
For 100 years, Eastern TN was the state GOP
Everything west of Chattanooga voted like the Solid South, but the east has been about as Republican as it is today since the Civil War. It continues to punch above its weight (both in terms of votes cast and the number of candidates elected statewide) in GOP politics today.

[ Parent ]
So far and I am in this catagory
the early vote seems to be gray haired. The +55 crowd is really getting out to vote early. I buy the 14% at under 45.

I suspect its Lamar by double digits. I want to say 20% since the vote is split. Lamar, however, is running very hard. Lots of ads, lots of mailers and calls to local primary voters. Lamar will easily outspend Carr.

I suspect D primary voters will be low and low this year. I think we will see a near record GOP primary turnout. Now Lamar has a ton of Nashville area connections. So I think he could do better then this polled number but maybe not.

Yes the teaparty/Paul/I don't like what happening vote will likely be around 35 to 40%. Flynn will get some votes but I see Lamar topping out at over 50%.  

Lamar is a big believer in run unopposed or scarred
The Mississippi Senate race was even more motivation.

43 Male Republican, Maryland Heights, MO Pattonville School District, Maryland Heights Fire District (MO-2). Previously lived in both Memphis and Nashville.

[ Parent ]
darn auto correct
referring back to mine

43 Male Republican, Maryland Heights, MO Pattonville School District, Maryland Heights Fire District (MO-2). Previously lived in both Memphis and Nashville.

[ Parent ]
It's too bad
The SCF could have spent here instead of MS. We'd be spared the sore that was and still is Chris McDaniel. Fro what I've heard, Joe Carr isn't a crazy nut and TN is a safe seat. I have no problem with hitting an incumbent in a safe seat with a primary every cycle or so. Keeps them voting the right way.

male/21/R/TX-22/originally CA-45, KS-03

Pragmatic, George W. Bush Republican

Scott Walker/Marco Rubio 2016!

Joe Carr
I would proudly vote for him, if I lived in Tenn...

Conservative first, Republican second!  

[ Parent ]
By the way, great job by the RRH polling team!  

Conservative first, Republican second!  

[ Parent ]
On Lamar Alexander
Is 2014 his last political campaign for statewide office ?

[ Parent ]
He's currently 74
So he'll be 80 in 2020 and have been a Senator for 18 years, so it will probably depend upon his health and if he still enjoys being a Senator.

If he does retire from the Senate, I can't see run running for any other office. (He's already been Governor and I doubt he wants to pull a Jerry Brown)

43 Male Republican, Maryland Heights, MO Pattonville School District, Maryland Heights Fire District (MO-2). Previously lived in both Memphis and Nashville.

[ Parent ]
Only Other Option
I agree.  If Lamar doesn't run for Senate again, I can't envision him running for any other elected office.  The only other capstone to his career I can imagine beyond the Senate is if he gets a Cabinet position in the next GOP administration.

[ Parent ]
which Lamar has already done
that was a few years after he left office as Governor.

43 Male Republican, Maryland Heights, MO Pattonville School District, Maryland Heights Fire District (MO-2). Previously lived in both Memphis and Nashville.

[ Parent ]
Any chance Haslam runs for the Senate in 2020
If Alexander retires in 6 years from now.

[ Parent ]
Though I imagine some of the House delegation will want to take a shot at it.

24, Conservatarian Republican CA-12
Liberals dream things that never were and ask why not.  Conservatives shout back "Because it won't work"

[ Parent ]
Bigger question
Who are the GOP and Dem respective front-runners for the Tennessee Executive Mansion in 2018 once Haslam exits the stage ?

I'm assuming Nashville's current Mayor would be mentioned as a gubernatorial contender.

[ Parent ]
Karl Dean
From what I hear, he's roundly despised by a lot of people, including some Democratic activists. It seems to be a personality problem, not one based on ideology.

22, Male, Conservative Republican, TN-08 (home), VA-01 (college)

[ Parent ]

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