There is no shortage of intrigue in today's release of new polling data out of Tennessee from our polling partners at PPP.
Headline number one: freshman incumbent Republican Bob Corker is potentially vulnerable, but only if the Democratic nominee is recently term-limited Governor Phil Bredesen. Corker actually trails Bredesen, albeit by a modest 46-41 margin. And it is clear that cross-partisan appeal carries the day for Bredesen:
71% of Democrats, 61% of independents, and 57% of Republicans like Bredesen. Politicians with that kind of universal appeal across the aisle are few and far between these days. As a result Bredesen gets 83% of the Democratic vote while Corker can only keep 73% of Republicans in line, and Bredesen leads by nine points with independents. That gives him his overall five point lead.
Bredesen is far from a lock to actually make a bid, of course. But if he were to do so, and win, he'd almost certainly be a Manchin-esque figure. Like Manchin, however, his apostasy would be tempered by the fact that his personal appeal would be the only thing keeping the seat in nominally Democratic hands. Plus, a Bredesen candidacy would at least force the NRSC to play a little bit of defense, something it does not appear they will have to do in too many places in the 2012 cycle.
Headline number two: the Democrat that took Corker to the wire in 2006, former Congressman/DLCer Harold Ford Jr, is ill-equipped to take another shot at it:
Another Democrat who has fallen far out of favor with Tennessee voters is Harold Ford Jr. He came quite close to winning this seat in 2006 but has firmly established himself as a New Yorker now and would trail Corker by 23 points in a rematch at 55-32. Ford's favorability is now down all the way to 26%, while 42% of voters say they see him in a negative light.
I guess forsaking his home state and wearing an "I Love NY" button (for the five minutes of contemplation of a Senate bid) soured the folks back home on Junior. A net negative of 16 points on the favorability question is nothing short of awful for a political figure not tainted by serious scandal.
And with Senator Gillibrand's numbers markedly on the rise in New York (as confirmed by yesterday's Siena Poll), he may well be a man without a state, politically speaking.