In the last few presidential elections, Tennessee has largely been ignored by candidates vying for the presidency due to its status as a solid red state. In 2008, John McCain beat President Obama by a 15% margin. In 2012, Mitt Romney defeated Obama by a 20.4% margin. Since the 2008 election, Tennessee has grown more conservative compared to the country as a whole. Tennessee has consistently voted for Republican candidates in recent elections.
However, Republican dominance wasn’t always the case. When Bill Clinton ran for president, he won Tennessee in both the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections. Clinton’s victory extended to other southern states, including Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, West Virginia and Georgia. In these states, Clinton was able to persuade white, blue collar voters to join his coalition of African American and Latino voters.
During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Hillary Clinton found a base in the same states her husband carried over a decade earlier. Sec. Clinton secured large victories in Arkansas, Tennessee and West Virginia, primarily due to support from the same blue collar, white voters that Bill Clinton had relied on in 1992 and 1996.
Speculation mounts about a possible Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. Some political observers believe Clinton is uniquely suited to be competitive in southern states such as Tennessee by using the same coalition that aided her husband in the nineties.
Polling indicates Hillary may prove to be a competitive candidate in the South. Recent surveys show her in a statistical tie with various Republican opponents in Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky. Tennessee has yet to be polled, but if it is similar to its geographical neighbors, Tennessee may be getting more visits from presidential contenders as 2016 approaches.