If Tea Partiers decide to make Bob Corker a target next year he's vulnerable to it. 43% of Republican primary voters in the state say they'd prefer to nominate a more conservative alternative to Corker next year, compared to just 38% who say they'd rather put Corker forth again.
It's not that Republican voters are particularly negative toward Corker. He has a a 60/19 approval spread with them and 55% think he's ideologically 'about right' compared to just 23% who think he's 'too liberal.' But a plurality of them would like to replace him with someone further to the right anyway.
Taking down Corker is not something just anyone is going to be able to do though. Country singer Hank Williams Jr. has made noises about challenging him, but trails Corker 66-13 in a hypothetical match up. A more traditional name we tested- Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn- does a lot better but still trails Corker 50-30.
Those leads against a pair of hypothetical opponents shouldn't leave Corker feeling too reassured though. That 60% approval rating with the Republican base is less than the 77% approval Lisa Murkowski had with them in January 2010 and the 69% Mike Castle had with them in March of 2010. Those better numbers didn't keep the two of them from being primaried and Corker could be too- but only if a strong candidate decides to do it and has meaningful financial and institutional support. If folks like the Club for Growth or Tea Party Express decided to sit this one out Corker might be ok.
When it comes to the Republican Presidential field in the state, Mike Huckabee holds a wide lead with 31% to 17% for Sarah Palin, 11% for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, 10% for Ron Paul, 3% for Mitch Daniels, and 1% for Tim Pawlenty. We wondered when we started doing these 2012 GOP Presidential polls if Gingrich's potential presence in the race would really hurt Huckabee's strength in the South but that does not seem to be the case. Polls we've conducted over the last three months have now found Huckabee at the top in North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Missouri, Virginia, and now Tennessee.
These numbers are also another data point showing that Romney's strategy for winning the nomination night have to hinge on racking up delegates in the West and Northeast. His favorability rating in Tennessee is only 47%, putting him way behind Huckabee's 74%, Palin's 67%, and even Gingrich's 52%. He has hovered right around the 10% mark in a lot of our Southern state polls and just does not seem likely to fare very well in the region next year.
Full results here