Given Tennessee’s increasingly conservative leanings, White House senior adviser Karl Rove has been telling Alexander to run more to the right, even if it makes him indistinguishable from the more conservative Bryant. Why? “Name recognition,” says an RNC political advance staffer. “Even if Bryant is the true conservative, Alexander is a former governor. Everyone knows him. He just has to make it through the primary and we’re okay for the general.”
The primary is now a bigger question mark than it might have been, thanks to Bryant’s strong run. The upstart conservative refused to step aside, even turning down Rove’s personal entreaties. “He’s running on principle, namely that Alexander isn’t a true conservative, isn’t right for Tennessee,” says a Bryant staffer in Washington. “When you have that, it makes it easier to run and lose, especially if you know you at least helped push the winner further to the right.”
Alexander has been running slightly more to the right at home in the Smoky Mountain state, but elsewhere he’s happy to be a lot more moderate.
A May 22 Alexander fundraiser in Washington is a case in point. Invitations recently went out for the event, which will be held in the home of liberal, pro-choice Republican Julie Finley. According to the RNC staffer, the White House advised against the Finley fundraiser, saying it would work with the RNC to find another Washington site for an Alexander fundraiser. Alexander’s campaign turned the offer down. “Finley is big at the RNC. If the party had a problem with her, why give her a seat at the table? She brings a voice to a wing of the party that doesn’t have many,” says an Alexander adviser based in Washington. “Her money and her friends’ money is as good as anyone’s.”
Apparently Finley’s help is needed. Bryant is pulling in all the conservative money in the state, and many of Alexander’s instate supporters are suffering from “Lamar fatigue” from his previous presidential runs and not donating as much as in the past.