It is Republican primary day in the Volunteer State, and today’s matchup pits Senator Lamar Alexander against GOP state senator Joe Carr. This primary looks like the Tea Party’s last real chance to unseat an incumbent—certainly a high-profile one.
Upsetting Alexander will be a difficult task. The incumbent, who has been in the senate for two terms, has worked to present himself as in touch with his constituents, even going so far as to give up a leadership post, as NPR reports:
Unlike some other Republican incumbents who have faced Tea Party challengers, Alexander has taken steps to stay in touch with Tennessee voters. He returns home frequently and rounded up support from all the state’s Republican county chairs
He also gave up his post in the GOP Senate leadership, notes Bruce Oppenheimer, a professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University.
“I think he thought that was probably not going to serve him well in his reelection efforts,” he says.
Carr has been hammering Alexander recently on his record and complaining that he is too bipartisan. NPR quotes him Carr as saying, “His voting record, whether it’s on raising taxes or voting yes on his cloture vote for Obamacare or voting for amnesty or embracing the war on coal — over and over and over again Lamar Alexander has shown a willingness to work with the other side instead of standing with our side.” On his website Carr also hits the senator for voting to confirm the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell.
The message may resonate with constitutionalist-conservatives in Tennessee, but Carr’s poll numbers still lags behind Alexander’s. According to Real Clear Politics, Carr is trailing Alexander by a 29-41 percent margin, with 20 percent still undecided. That’s enough up-for-grabs voters to swing the race, but Carr would have to do extraordinarily well with them.
Can Carr make up the distance? Stranger things have happened. Ask Eric Cantor.