As the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” Tennessee is traditionally conservative and tends to support Republicans, going for Bush in 2000 and 2004. Though Mike Huckabee is relying on its strong evangelical community, the state has a history of being more economically and racially liberal than other southern states. Hillary Clinton is also hoping that, with its relatively small black population, Tennessee can be one of the few southern states she can win. After voting for the winner in the last 11 presidential elections, Tennessee is considered a bellwether state.
Delegates: Democrats, 85 (68 in primary; 17 super-delegates); Republicans, 55.
Format: Democrats hold an open, proportional primary; Republicans hold a closed, winner-takes-all primary.
CORRECTION: As commentor David in Nashville pointed out, the Tennessee Republican primary is open and is winner-take-all only if a candidate wins a two-thirds majority.
Recent Polls*: The most recent poll, taken on January 28, shows Clinton leading Obama and Edwards 43-32-16 and Huckabee leading McCain and Romney 30-26-22.
*Poll updated below.
Democratic In-State Fundraising: Obama: $255,883; Clinton: $188,406
Republican In-State Fundraising: Romney: $428,122; McCain: $203,713; Huckabee: $62,600
Endorsements: While Democratic governor Philip Bredesen hasn’t endorsed a candidate, he has come out against Hillary in the past and the two are known to have political conflicts. Powerful local Democrat and former governor Ned McWherter has come out strongly in favor of Hillary after having been a supporter of Bill’s when they were both state governors. Al Gore, a Tennessee native whose support is widely seen as game-changing, is said to be unlikely to endorse.
Huckabee benefits from the endorsement of the state’s most powerful pro-life group, TN Right to Life. His lead in the polls seems to be based on his evangelical credentials, with 24 percent of poll participants listing “family and moral values” as their biggest voting issue. However, Romney recently won the coveted endorsement of Republican former governor Winthrop Dunn, a powerful party voice in the state--the latest in a list of over a dozen state legislators who moved to Romney from Thompson.
Demographics: The state’s political affiliations run east to west, with the heavily Republican Knoxville at one end and the Democratic stronghold of Memphis at the other. In the middle, Nashville is heavily Democratic but the surrounding suburbs are overwhelmingly Republican. Hillary is expected to do better in the Nashville area, while Obama has a fighting chance in the northwestern part of the state based on its considerable rural, African-American population.
Analysis: Clinton is trying to win at least one southern state other than Arkansas, and with its small African-American population (25 percent), Tennessee is her target. She has stepped up her campaign there while Obama has focused more on the bigger fight in California. Huckabee is leading the GOP pack in the polls and has a solid evangelical base to draw on, but its support didn't prove as significant as he hoped in South Carolina, and could continue to disappoint. Romney may be third in the polls but he has more money and more political endorsements. According to John Geer, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, some Tennesseans could feel their vote will be wasted on Huckabee as the primary draws closer. With only a four-point lead over McCain, it’s far from certain he can carry the state.
Get a rundown of other states at play at TNR's Super Tuesday Primer, updated with new states every day leading up to February 5.
By Cara Parks