by Bruce Barry
OK, we'll admit to a bit of hyperbole in that headline. But there is polling evidence that Tennessee voters are less hostile to the Democratic presidential ticket than they were four years ago, and our red-blue gap is shrinking faster than most other conservative-tilting states. (The more technically accurate headline, "Tennessee decline in red dominance happening faster than in other deeply red states," just doesn't have quite the same ring.)
The data on this is compiled in an analysis by Nate Silver, who traffics in quantitative politics at the The New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog. Silver compared the final presidential election result in 2008 with a weighted average of current election polling in each of 18 solidly red states.
Here's the money chart:
In 10 of 18 states the red grows redder — a polling lead for Mitt Romney that exceeds John McCain's 2008 margin of victory. In the other seven, all still with Romney ahead, the redness has paled — a smaller Romney edge in polling now compared with McCain's margin four years ago. The two states with the biggest movement from red to blue (some may prefer "from red to pink") are South Carolina followed by, yes, Tennessee! — the latter showing the red margin of advantage cut in half.
If you're wondering about the extent and quality of polling to this point in Tennessee, the answers are sufficient and quite good. Silver's weighted number for Tennessee relies mainly on two surveys: a YouGov poll earlier this month (finding Romney +8 among registered voters) and a Vanderbilt poll in May (Romney +7 among registered voters).
Extrapolating optimistically (and, one hastens to add, grotesquely without scientific basis), the 2016 presidential contest in Tennessee should be a tossup. Battleground status, here we come!
A version of this post also appears at BruceBarry.net.