For an underdog who has spent six months seeking traction for his U.S. senate primary campaign against Lamar Alexander, the analysis could hardly be more damning for Joe Carr:
"This campaign looks essentially the same today as it did last August."
That's the conclusion of Whit Ayers, president of North Star Opinion research, in a memo obtained by the Scene. Ayers' firm conducted a survey of 600 likely Republican primary voters last week, and found that Alexander led Carr in a head-to-head matchup by 62 percent to 17 percent, with 18 percent undecided. In similar questioning, Brenda Lenard picked up 2 percent while Danny Page received 1 percent.
From the memo:
2. Senator 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.
3. Senator 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.
4. Senator 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.
Seventy percent of likely Republican voters have never heard of Joe Carr. Ouch.
The poll was conducted Feb. 3-6, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
UPDATE: Carr campaign spokeswoman Hillary Pate responds:
“At election time, Senator Alexander likes to do two things — pretend he is a conservative and tout implausibly high poll numbers, neither of which pass the smell test. 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. 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 non-partisan 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.”