Sen. Alexander Looks Strong in Tenn., Rep. DesJarlais Race Tight

Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 09:21 PM

By John Gizzi

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The last "tea party-based" effort of 2014 to purge a Republican senator will take place Thursday in Tennessee. All signs point to a win for two-term Sen. Lamar Alexander, whose premier opponent in the crowded primary is state Rep. Joe Carr.

Two weeks ago, Carr made national news when he received the endorsement of Sarah Palin. But her endorsement is the only thing the insurgent conservative has going for him. Most of the national tea party groups and cultural conservatives (who have never been close to Alexander) have avoided getting involved in the primary.

"Lamar wrapped up the nomination almost before the primary campaign even began by getting every single influential Tennessee Republican to endorse him at the earliest possible moment and by amassing a war chest that scared off everyone except Carr," one Nashville Republican told Newsmax.

Alexander, 74, has also lined up the endorsements of just about every elected GOP official in the Volunteer State.

Throughout his career as governor, 1996 presidential candidate, and senator, Alexander has never been close to conservative activists in his state party. In this race, Carr has hit hard at his repeated calls for working with Senate Democrats and his vote for the comprehensive immigration package enacted by the Senate (which President Barack Obama supports).

As to why this has not "caught on" among conservative activists and likely primary voters, Chip Saltsman, former state GOP chairman and national campaign manager for Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign, told us that Alexander "sits and listens to conservatives and doesn't rub their differences in their faces."

The only heated House primary is in the 4th District, where two-term Rep. Scott DesJarlais is in an uphill battle against State Sen. Jim Tracy. Both are considered strong conservatives, but the entire Republican leadership in the district and the state has abandoned DesJarlais because of what one leader called "his horrific baggage:"

Two years ago, in a story that made headlines, it was revealed that as a private physician DesJarlais had prescribed drugs to a patient with whom he was having an affair and that he pressured his former wife and a former mistress to have abortions. DesJarlais, who campaigned as a strong pro-lifer, won but by a much smaller margin than in 2010.

"Tracy should beat DesJarlais but a lot of primary voters are willing to forgive his serious scandals because he voted against lifting the debt ceiling," said Saltsman, "You should never underestimate the potency of that issue in a primary."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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