NASHVILLE -- Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam's gubernatorial campaign says the Republican leads his nearest GOP rival, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, by 13 points statewide, according to a survey conducted by the Haslam campaign's pollster.
The survey of 600 likely Republican voters showed Mr. Haslam leading Rep. Wamp by 37 percent to 24 percent.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey trailed in third place with 15 percent, according to the poll, conducted by Haslam pollsters Ayres, McHenry & Associates.
Twenty-four percent of Republicans said they were undecided, according to the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Pollster Whit Ayres said support for Mr. Haslam has trended upward, almost tripling since the first of February from 13 percent to 37 percent.
"On the other hand," Mr. Ayres said, "Zach Wamp is in exactly the same place he was at the first of March, and Ron Ramsey is at essentially the same place he was at the first of February."
Mr. Haslam, who has dominated fundraising so far, began his television and radio campaign late in February and largely has remained on the air since. The other candidates estimated he has spent $3 million.
The Wamp campaign indicated that the poll shows Mr. Haslam's appeal has limits, regardless of his spending.
"Despite going on TV four months ago and spending millions of dollars, Bill Haslam has only managed to rent the attention of some voters but can't close the sale," Wamp spokesman Sam Edelen said via e-mail.
He said Rep. Wamp, of Chattanooga, "is right on Haslam's heels and closing rapidly every day in what has become a two-man race between a strong and tested red-blooded conservative in Zach and a blue-blooded moderate like Haslam."
Rep. Wamp's own television campaign is "now going strong in every part of the state, and we're right where we hoped to be," Mr. Edelen said.
Ramsey spokeswoman Rachel Taylor said that, if Tuesday's primaries in other states "have taught us anything, it is that polls two months out truly don't seem to matter on Election Day. Well, that and candidates who hail from D.C. tend to typically fare poorly in this political climate."
"It's telling that even after Haslam has spent close to $3 million dollars on this race so far, his own polling shows that two-thirds of Tennessee's primary voters have rejected him," she said.
* 39 percent -- Haslam
* 32 percent -- Wamp
* 13 percent -- Ramsey
* 16 percent -- undecided
Source: Ayres, McHenry & Associates
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga political scientist Richard Wilson said the poll's finding, if accepted at face value, "does not show an insurmountable lead for Haslam. It almost certainly does reflect the amount of money he has spent on advertising. That will boost almost anyone."
Dr. Wilson said he is surprised that 24 percent of GOP voters remain undecided.
"My professional reaction is it isn't as good for Haslam as he'd like you to think it is," Dr. Wilson said.
In West Tennessee, the polling memo says, Mr. Haslam leads by 35 percent to 18 percent for Rep. Wamp and 11 percent for Lt. Gov. Ramsey. Thirty-six percent are undecided.
In Middle Tennessee, the polling memo says, Mr. Haslam leads by 36 percent to 21 percent for Lt. Gov. Ramsey and 16 percent for Rep. Wamp. Twenty-seven percent were undecided.
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