U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is vulnerable to a tea party challenge in the Republican primary next year, but two potential challengers nonetheless "get blown out of the water at this very early stage," a survey of GOP voters says.
Public Policy Research says its Feb. 9-13 poll of 400 GOP voters shows 43 percent saying they would prefer a generic "more conservative challenger" in the primary for 2012 elections. Thirty-eight percent supported Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, and 19 percent were unsure.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
Fifty percent said they would support Corker if he were challenged by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., whose name sometimes is mentioned for statewide office. Thirty percent said they would back Blackburn and 20 percent said they were undecided.
Public Policy Research also matched Corker against country music entertainer Hank Williams Jr., who two years ago reportedly voiced interest in running in the 2012 GOP primary. But the survey indicated the country musician might end up be singing the blues if he tries politics: Just 13 percent of Republicans voters said they would back Williams versus 66 percent for Corker.
Meanwhile, the poll found former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leads the field of potential Republican presidential candidates, with 31 percent saying they would vote for him. Huckabee won Tennessee's GOP presidential primary in 2008.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came in a distant second with 17 percent. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich tied for third but could be in a dead heat with Palin given the margin of error. Ten percent backed Ron Paul.
The survey found 45 percent of Republicans surveyed were "very conservative," while 32 percent said they were "somewhat conservative." Another 18 percent said they were "moderate." Four percent described themselves as "somewhat liberal" and one percent as "very liberal."