Tennessee conservatives may soon learn that divided you stand, divided you will fall in the GOP Senate primary.
Despite a steady chorus of protests against Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who by his opponents’ own admission is a Tennessee institution, there has never been a large groundswell of outside Tea Party support sufficient to oust the incumbent.
State Rep. Joe Carr has tried to latch onto any hope he can, especially after Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary upset last month. He’s gotten some celebrity endorsements from Laura Ingraham and Sarah Palin, and added Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum to that list on Monday.
Some Carr supporters think Flinn is a plant to help secure Alexander’s reelection, but the popular former governor, U.S. Education secretary and University of Tennessee president likely doesn’t need it. An internal survey from his campaign gives him a 30-point lead ahead of next Thursday’s Aug. 7 matchup.
Nonetheless, Lamar, as he’s colloquially known in the Volunteer State, isn’t taking his foot off the gas pedal, as The Hill’s campaign editor, Jessica Taylor, observed this weekend on her ride along on his early vote bus tour.
In one of the few Southern states without a runoff, the more pragmatic, centrist Republican has often emerged from split GOP primaries there, such as Bob Corker in the 2006 Senate race and Bill Haslam in the 2010 gubernatorial primary. There’s no indication anything different will happen in just over a week, and that’s one reason Alexander also has no reason to change his time-tested approach.
“The difference is that there are conservatives who want to make a speech and conservatives who want to govern, and I’m in the latter category,” he told The Hill aboard his campaign bus. “Tennesseans know me as a conservative with an independent streak.”
GA-SEN (OPEN): A leaked December internal memo from Democrat Michelle Nunn’s campaign lays out a plan for Nunn to top her GOP challengers well before the Republican Party had even chosen David Perdue as its nominee. The memo, obtained by the National Review, lays out some concerns for Nunn’s campaign, including the perception that she is not a “real Georgian” after having grown up in the D.C. suburbs and controversy involving donations from the charity organization Nunn led.
IA-SEN (OPEN): The Democratic Senate Majority PAC hit Senate candidate Joni Ernst with an attack ad, tying the Iowa Republican to the billionaire Koch brothers. The spot says the Koch brothers are “spending millions” supporting Ernst because she “shares their priorities.”
Americans United for Change hits her in a radio ad for attending a fundraiser hosted by ExxonMobil's political action committee, linking it to her lack of support for renewable fuels. The spot attacks Ernst for not speaking up about “big oil’s greedy attacks on ethanol and Iowa jobs” and charges that her “big oil friends are no friends to Iowa farmers.”
And footage surfaced of Ernst saying last year that the U.S. government shouldn’t consider passing legislation that states “are considering nullifying.”
WV-SEN (OPEN): Democratic candidate Natalie Tennant is working hard to distance herself from President Obama and his energy policy, literally shutting off the White House lights in her latest ad to symbolize her support for West Virginia coal. “Where do they think their electricity comes from?” Tennant says in the new spot that will run in two-thirds of the state. “You and I both know its our hard-working West Virginia coal miners that power America.”
NC-SEN (HAGAN): North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis (R) will be able to return to the campaign trail full-time after weeks of budget negotiations finally concluded. In the deal, Tillis helped pass an increase in teacher salaries, something that could mute some Democratic attacks on his campaign. Republicans admit the extended session hurt Tillis.
LA-SEN (LANDRIEU): The U.S. Chamber of Commerce could back Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), political director Rob Engstrom told Chamber officials at the latest meeting about the planned endorsement.
Engstrom told The Hill afterward that "no decisions have been made" about an endorsement.
Social conservative leader Tony Perkins endorsed Tea Party candidate Rob Maness (R) over Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) in the all-party primary.
One big-name Republican who’s stayed silent about who he’s backing: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).
KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is again receiving support from former President Clinton, who will travel to Kentucky on Aug. 6 for an undisclosed event in the eastern part of the state.
Grimes trails Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) 47 percent to 45 percent in a new Bluegrass Poll.
NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): Republican Scott Brown launched an ad Monday that slams Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) for what he calls her and President Obama’s “pro-amnesty” policies that have caused an “immigration crisis.” Brown speaks direct to camera in the spot, emphasizing a tough stance on immigration, and closes the ad by saying, “It’s time for us to secure the border once and for all, and tell people who try to come here illegally that we intend to enforce the law.”
TN-SEN (ALEXANDER): An outside energy group is lending a hand to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), launching an ad Monday that hails Alexander as a “conservative leader working to secure our nation, strengthening our borders, and making America less reliant on foreign energy.” The spot, from Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, commends the senator for working to create “cheaper, more reliable American energy.”
Alexander’s primary challenger, Joe Carr, picked up the endorsement of the Eagle Forum PAC, a socially conservative group. But Alexander’s internal polling shows the senator leading Carr by 30 percentage points. The new poll, conducted by Republican pollster Whit Ayres, has Alexander ahead of Carr 53 percent to 21 percent.
HI-SEN (SCHATZ): A new poll out Monday from the League of Conservation Voters, which is supporting Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), finds him leading primary challenger and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), by 10 percentage points. The automated survey conducted by Public Policy Polling finds Schatz at 49 percent to Hanabusa’s 39 percent support, with 11 percent of voters undecided.
BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE
FL-2 (SOUTHERLAND): Democratic Senate hopeful Gwen Graham launched a new ad campaign Monday featuring her well-known political father, former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.). The positive spots tout the former senator’s “workday” tradition where he would spend a day working with constituents, “a Graham tradition his daughter carries on today.” “I absolutely know the value of workdays,” Graham says in the ads while sitting next to her father. “There’s such a connection that I feel with the people that I’ve worked with.”
AZ-7 (OPEN): A new poll out Monday from former Arizona state Rep. Ruben Gallego’s (D) campaign finds him leading fellow Democrat Mary Rose Wilcox 32 percent to 24 percent. The Lake Research Partners survey indicates an increase in Gallego’s favorability rating from 43 percent to 51 percent and a drop in Wilcox’s net favorability rating by 11 points.
WA-4 (OPEN): Republican Dan Newhouse released an ad touting his plans for office, including working toward a balanced budget, cutting spending, stopping Common Core and opposing gun control. The spot focuses on the nation’s increasing debt, accusing President Obama and Congress of just continuing to spend more, and closes by saying “Real action requires real leadership.”
CHRISTIE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is out on a grim “no pain no gain” tour to tee off his upcoming battle to lower state employees’ pensions, part of a response to a worse than projected state budget picture.
CLINTON: Hillary Clinton said she supports creating refugee screening centers in Central American countries to forestall the flood of child immigrants to the U.S.
Media mogul and Univision head Haim Saban said he’ll spend “as much as needed” supporting Clinton if she runs for president.
INGRAHAM: Conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham may be using her involvement in Republican primaries this cycle as a primer for a political career of her own. Ingraham told The Sunday Times that she’s been “approached by various people to get involved” and that she is “keeping an open mind about running for office in the future.”
FIORINA: Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R) has been up to New Hampshire a few times the last few months, leading at least some people to wonder if she’s considering a presidential bid. Fiorina lost a 2010 Senate race in California and currently serves as a vice chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Its official. Samah and I are off to 'Burning Man' this year. Scratch one from the Bucket List.” — Americans for Tax Reform President and conservative activist Grover Norquist, via Twitter
This post was updated at 10:30 p.m.