GOP gov’s poll shows tight race among top 3

Bill Lee speaks to supporters at his headquarters launch in Franklin on Feb. 12, 2018. (Erik Schelzig/Tennessee Journal)

Bill Lee speaks to supporters at his headquarters launch in Franklin on Feb. 12, 2018. (Erik Schelzig/Tennessee Journal)

Rival gubernatorial campaigns scoffed this week when Republican Bill Lee declared “we can win” in a speech to supporters at his headquarters launch. A new Lee poll obtained by The Tennessee Journal appears to lend that statement at least some credence.

The poll shows the Franklin businessman in a “strong third place” behind Randy Boyd and Diane Black, with Beth Harwell lagging far behind.

The poll of 600 likely Republican primary voters was conducted between Feb. 5 and Feb. 11 by pollster Whit Ayres of North Star Opinion Research (who has also worked for the campaigns of Bill Frist, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, and Bill Haslam).

Here are some of the top takeaways:

Preference in Republican gubernatorial primary:

Randy Boyd 25%
Diane Black 22%
Bill Lee 18%
Beth Harwell 4%
Undecided 30%

 Name recognition:

Diane Black 73%
Randy Boyd 59%
Beth Harwell 53%
Bill Lee 43%

Favorability ratings among those who recognized the candidate:

Favorable Unfavorable
Diane Black 42% 19%
Randy Boyd 38% 5%
Beth Harwell 27% 9%
Bill Lee 27% 5%

The pollster concludes: “These findings mean that the gubernatorial contest is wide open, a tight three-way race at the moment. Moreover, Bill Lee has lots of room to grow as the candidate close to the leaders who is least well-known.”

One detail left unmentioned in the poll memo is that while Boyd, Lee, and Black have all run campaign ads, Harwell has yet to go on the air and she has been coy about when she will do so. It will be interesting to see how much she can move the needle once she does.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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