In The Race For Governor, Most Tennesseans Are Only Starting To Recognize The Candidates | Nashville Public Radio

In The Race For Governor, Most Tennesseans Are Only Starting To Recognize The Candidates

May 30, 2017

Congressman Diane Black.

That's who Tennesseans say they're most familiar with as the race to succeed Governor Bill Haslam begins. Just under half of all voters say in a new statewide poll they've heard of her.

Black, a Republican, has represented a portion of Middle Tennessee since 2011. She hasn't said for sure that she's running for governor. But she'd be the best-known candidate.

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and House Speaker Beth Harwell are second and third. But Vanderbilt professor John Geer says other candidates could close the gap.

"These numbers are very tentative. You can become very well-known, very quickly. So this is again, just kind of a baseline."

Geer says Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd illustrates that point.

Boyd has never held elected office, but he launched an aggressive social media campaign this spring to introduce himself to GOP voters. After a few weeks, nearly one in three Republicans say they're familiar with him.

Support For Trump Slips Slightly

The latest Vanderbilt Poll also finds that support for President Donald Trump seems to have faded some since Election Day, but the president retains strong support from his conservative base.

Just over half of Tennessee voters have a favorable opinion of Trump. That's down from 60 percent shortly after the election.

Views of the president are starkly divided along party lines, says Vanderbilt professor Josh Clinton. Only one in 10 Democrats now say they approve of Trump.

"But there's not really any evidence among registered Republicans in Tennessee that their opinions of Trump are changing all that much."

Pollsters found Governor Bill Haslam remains the most popular political figure statewide. Vanderbilt political scientists say that's because he's one of the few people who draws bipartisan support.