2020 Presidential Elections State-by-State Guide: Red state Tennessee is least likely to see a change of course

Once the state of the Gore family, Tennessee last picked a Democratic president in 1996

                            2020 Presidential Elections State-by-State Guide: Red state Tennessee is least likely to see a change of course
Tennessee State Flag (US Public Domain)



Primary dates

March 3, 2020 (Tuesday)

Type: Partially open

Democratic delegates: 73 (pledged 64, super 9)

Republican delegates: 58


Bill Lee (Republican)


Lamar Alexander (R) and Marsha Blackburn (R)

Representative: 9

Seven Republican: David 'Phil' Roe (1st district), Tim Burchett (2nd district), Charles 'Chuck' Fleischmann (3rd district), Scott DesJarlais (4th district), John Rose (6th district), Mark Green (7th district) and David Kustoff (8th district).

Two Democrats: Jim Cooper (5th district) and Steve Cohen (9th district)

Electoral college votes: 11 

Donald Trump won all of them in 2016

How Tennessee has voted in the past

Tennessee joined the Union in 1796 as the sixth state. It had seceded from the Union during the Civil War and did not participate in the 1864 election. The Volunteer State was a Democratic fort from reconstruction until the end of the Second World War (1939-45). Since the 1950s, Tennessee became a red state, although Southerners Jimmy Carter won it in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. Barack Obama lost both his bids in the state in 2008 and 2012, worse in the second time when Mitt Romney beat him by over 20 points.
In 2016, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Tennessee by 26 percentage points. Barring Obama twice and Richard Nixon in 1960, Tennessians have sided with winners of a presidential election since 1928.

Once a battleground state, Tennessee is now solid red

Tennessee is one of the most solid Republican states in the US with the Democrats left to defend themselves in a few blue pockets in its biggest cities. But Tennessee's Republicanism is more moderate and is represented by veteran Senator Lamar Alexander, former senator Bob Corker and governor Bill Haslam.
For over a century, Tennessee's political divisions were influenced by the Civil War divisions. In two referenda that took place in 1861, most counties in East Tennessee voted in favor of the Union and have remained heavily Republican since. Pro-secession counties in the middle and western parts of the state, however, remained strongly Democratic and even backed liberal presidential candidates such as George McGovern and Michael Dukakis even though they lost. Liberal figures like Al Gore Senior from the state (served as its senator between 1953 and 1971) went to become national names. His son Al Gore Junior was also a senator from Tennessee and went on to become the US vice president for two terms (1993-2001).

Former vice president Al Gore Junior (Getty Images)

However, the Democratic cultural liberalism challenged the rural voters' ancestral loyalties in West and Middle Tennessee while a ring of counties grew around Nashville to give birth to an economically and culturally conservative bloc. This saw the Republican Party gaining an upper edge in Tennessee.

Tennessee and the 2020 presidential election

According to the forecasts made by FiveThirtyEight about the Super Tuesday polls, Tennessee is tied between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden with both having 39 percent each while Michael Bloomberg is next with 17 percent. There have been little reliable pre-primary surveys in Tennessee but demographic factors such as racial diversity, less-college educated voters and conservatism could see Biden having that final edge over Sanders. In 2016, Sanders beat Hillary in the Tennessee primary by almost 34 percent.

On the Republican side, Trump won the primary in 2016 by bagging almost 39 percent votes, 14 percent more than his nearest rival Ted Cruz. Since Gore lost the state in 2000, the GOP's vote share in Tennessee has only gone up. In the congressional elections in 2018, seven out of the nine districts have gone to the GOP while the red party also won both the Senate seats in the latest elections.

According to a poll done by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy in January, Trump is a strong favorite to win Tennessee in his re-election bid. Four major Democratic candidates are facing an uphill task against Trump in the November 3 election and the best placed among them is Michael Bloomberg, who is trailing the president by a clear 15 percent (54-39). Trump leads Joe Biden by 55 to 39 percent, Bernie Sanders by 57 to 37 percent and Elizabeth Warren by 57 to 36 percent. The GOP should not worry too much about bagging Tennessee once again to make it six times in a row.

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