Yacoubian Research for WMC-TV (4/23-27, likely voters):
Steve Cohen (D-inc): 65
Willie Herenton (D): 14
Steve Cohen faces an unusual challenge: his Memphis-based D+23 seat is as safe as can be in the general election, but as a white guy representing a district that’s almost two-thirds African-American, he’s consistently vulnerable in the primary. (As you’ll remember, Cohen won a heated primary in 2008 against Nikki Tinker, although that race will be remembered more for its sliminess than a close margin, as Cohen won with 79%.) When five-term Memphis mayor Willie Herenton announced last week that he was “seriously evaluating” a primary challenge to Cohen, on its face, that seemed like about the biggest possible challenge Cohen could face.
A new poll commissioned by a Memphis TV affiliate, however, suggests that Herenton doesn’t make the transition from strong-on-paper to reality very well, as he loses to Cohen by a sweeping margin. Herenton, who’s been in office since 1991, has apparently had ample time for the citizens of Memphis to get sick of him. Herenton won his most recent election in 2007 with only 42% of the vote (following pre-election polling indicating only 20% support for his re-election). Herenton also announced his resignation in 2008 in order to jump over to running Memphis’s public schools, then promptly reversed himself and continued being mayor when that deal fell through. Herenton seems to be floundering around, looking for a mayoral exit strategy, and that perception must be even stronger within the city.