The voting will begin in just a few weeks to choose which Democrat will oppose incumbent Lamar Alexander for one of Tennessee's U.S. Senate seats.
So who's leading the race? Well, it's pretty clear from a campaign poll issued by one of the Democratic candidates, Nashville attorney Bob Tuke, that the overwhelming leader is "Undecided" with a whopping 57% of the vote!
So why would Tuke release such a poll? That's pretty clear. Among those who've made up their mind according to the survey, 32% say they support Tuke, while just 8% say they back his chief rival, Knox County Clerk Mike Padgett. Tuke's campaign did kind of screw up the release of the poll numbers, first sending out an e-mail claiming a 30 point lead, then sending out a correction.
The poll does seem to have been done by a credible group (the same pollster who has worked for former Governor Ned McWherter, and Congressmen John Tanner and Harold Ford, Jr.). But internal campaign polls are always considered suspect, especially when nothing but the sample size and raw numbers are released (no questions, cross tabs or other results, not even whether the survey was done among registered voters or likely voters).
However, unless Padgett can quickly discredit the poll, counter with his own survey, or do something that shows his own broad support statewide, I suspect this poll will help Tuke in his effort to show that he is the best candidate (out of a field of unknowns) to run against Alexander. The real proof will come by July 15 when all the candidates must disclose their funding raising success (or lack thereof). I doubt any Democrat will show anything close to the massive campaign war chest Alexander is amassing. And without enough bread (money) and national support from the Democratic Party, who wins the nomination may not mean all that much in the long run. That's especially true in a red state like Tennessee, where the much-ballyhooed 50-state-strategy of soon-to-be Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama appears to be off to a very slow start.
As for all the Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate maybe, for now, they should just be glad there isn't a button to push on the primary ballot that says "who?"
LATE BREAKING: Tom Humphrey of THE KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL has an article out (July 2) with the fund raising numbers for all the Democrats, except Padgett, who says he's not ready to disclose just yet. The fund raising support is not officially due until July 15.
Bob Tuke says he raised more than $200,000 in the last three months bringing him to total of around $420,000 so far, he says. Senator Alexander has already been reported to be in the area about $2.5 million and he has yet to disclose how much more money his campaign has collected. Meantime, the most surprising money number is coming from Nashville businessman (and former mayoral candidate) Kenneth Eaton. He is apparently self-financing, so far to the tune of $275,000 (making him likely the biggest Democratic fundraiser in the last quarter) and he told Humphrey he "did not rule out putting more personal money into the campaign."