Sen. Lamar Alexander holds more than a 3-1 lead over state Rep. Joe Carr and other potential primary candidates, according to an internal campaign poll.
The survey of 600 likely Republican voters puts Alexander head-to-head with 62 percent, compared to 17 percent for Carr and 18 percent of voters who are undecided. The survey was conducted Feb. 3-6 by Whit Ayres, president of North Star Opinion Research. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.
"This campaign looks essentially the same today as it did last August," Ayres writes in a campaign memo. "Given Sen. Alexander’s universal name recognition, it will be very difficult for his opponents to move these numbers. Alexander remains in a very strong position to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate."
Excerpts from the memo:
Sen. Alexander holds more than a 3-1 lead against his closest primary opponent. Alexander stands at 62 percent in a head-to-head ballot test, compared to 17 percent for Joe Carr, 2 percent for Brenda Lenard and 1 percent for Danny Page, with 18 percent undecided.
Sen. Alexander leads his closest opponent overwhelmingly among key subgroups. Alexander leads Carr among strong Republicans by 69 to 14 percent, among evangelical Christians by 61 to 18 percent and among very conservative voters by 53 to 23 percent.
Sen. Alexander holds large leads in each grand division of the state. Alexander leads Carr by 56 to 17 percent in the West and 53 to 26 percent in the Middle. He leads Carr by 70 to 11 percent in his home area of East Tennessee, the region that continues to produce about half the Republican primary vote.
Sen. Alexander’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating among primary voters is 67 percent to 26 percent, with 5 percent holding no opinion. Alexander is universally known, with high favorable ratings, while his opponents are either little known or completely unknown. It is not uncommon in polling for about 5 percent of respondents to say they have never heard of even well-known statewide officials. The percentage of Republican primary voters who say they have never heard of Lamar Alexander is 1.6 percent. On the other hand, the percent of likely Republican voters who have never heard of Joe Carr is 70 percent, almost identical to the 73 percent who had never heard of him last August. Ninety-four percent have never heard of Danny Page, and 95 percent have never heard of Brenda Lenard.
"At election time, Sen. Alexander likes to do two things—pretend he is a conservative and tout implausibly high poll numbers, neither of which pass the smell test," said Hillary Pate, director of communications for the Carr campaign, in an emailed statement.
"In his 2002 primary, he consistently released polling showing a 40-point lead, and the final results showed those assertions to be so far off base, they were laughable," she said. "Now he’s doing it again, claiming to be a conservative when he’s not and claiming high levels of support while every other recent nonpartisan poll shows plummeting approval ratings. In contrast, our authentically conservative campaign is building momentum and the solid support that will help us achieve victory on election day."
Updated @ 5:46 p.m. on 2/11/14 to add more information as it became available.