New polls give Democrats a slim shot at flipping the Senate

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen wins Democratic Senate primary
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

NBC News released a poll of Tennessee conducted with Marist on Thursday, and Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen has a statistically insignificant 2 percentage point lead over Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn among likely voters. Among all registered voters, Bredesesn's lead expands to 4 points, 48 percent to 44 percent. Both results are within the poll's margin of error (±4.5 points for registered voters, ±5.5 points for likely voters), but combined with NBC/Marist polls this week from Indiana and Missouri, they suggest Democrats have a shot at winning control of the Senate in November, despite an unfavorable map.

Bredesen, a popular former governor, and Blackburn are running to succeed Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). Democrats, meanwhile, are defending Senate seats in Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states President Trump won in 2016. They need a net gain of two seats to win control, and their best shots of flipping seats are Arizona and Nevada.

In NBC/Marist's poll of Indiana released Wednesday, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) leads GOP challenger Mike Braun 49 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, just outside the poll's ±5 point margin of error. In Missouri, Tuesday's NBC/Marist poll found Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and state Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) tied in a two-way race, 47 percent each, and McCaskill takes a 4-point lead if Libertarian and Green candidates are included. All three polls were conducted Aug. 25-29. Political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg, looking at those polls and others in Florida, West Virginia, and elsewhere, sees new hope for the Democrats.

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Democrats have an 8.6-point lead in the generic congressional ballot, according to the RealClearPolitics average, They are favorites to win the House, but to flip the Senate, Democrats would pretty much have to run the board. That's looking slightly more likely than before.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.