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Tennessee: Poll Shows Cohen Leading in Primary

In the wake of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton’s announcement that he is considering challenging Rep. Steve Cohen in the Democratic primary next year, a local television station commissioned a new automated poll that showed the Congressman handily winning a head-to-head contest.

Cohen received 65 percent to Herenton’s 14 percent in the poll of 370 registered Democratic voters, which was conducted April 23, 26 and 27. The survey by Yacoubian Research had a 5-point margin of error.

The poll found that 84 percent gave Cohen a favorable job-approval rating while just 42 percent gave Herenton a favorable rating.

Cohen won a crowded open-seat primary in 2006 — when he was the only well-known white candidate in the majority-black district — and went on to handily defeat attorney Nikki Tinker, who is black, in the 2008 primary.

According to the Yacoubian poll, 21 percent of African-American voters planned to vote for Herenton, who is black. Cohen was backed by 50 percent of black voters surveyed.

Despite those early numbers, the well-known Herenton could still present a serious challenge for Cohen in 2010 and the Congressman won’t be able to count on any significant involvement on his behalf from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Wednesday that in districts like Cohen’s, where the party isn’t concerned about losing the seat in the general election, the committee stays out of Democratic primary contests even when they involve incumbents.

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