Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.) was the last incumbent senator to survive a Tea Party challenge, a sign he says bodes well for the GOP’s hopes of flipping the Senate.
“I think it helps that all of us Republican incumbents were renominated because that sends the signal that we’re serious about governing,” Alexander told The Hill Friday afternoon after he cruised to a nine-point victory over state Rep. Joe Carr (R) on Thursday evening.
Alexander put GOP chances of winning the upper chamber at 55 to 60 percent, pointing to the quality of the challengers as the key to victory.
“I think these are men and women who are capable of appealing not just to Republicans but to independent voters and, and that’s what it takes to win and to govern.”
One of the top issues Alexander thinks Congress should govern on is immigration reform. While his support for last year’s bipartisan Senate bill was a flashpoint for his detractors in his own primary, the veteran senator shows no signs of backing off the issue he says is critical for the GOP and the country.
Although the Tennessee senator admitted he's not optimistic about moving legislation in 2014 with November elections looming, he reiterated that his win and the wins of others supportive of working across the aisle will show the GOP is serious about governing.
“The Senate used to be full of senators in both parties who understood that after they made their speeches, that their jobs weren't finished, they had to sit down and get a result,” Alexander said. “I think the American people are going to get sick and tired of us hollering about things and not doing anything."
He sounded a hopeful tone toward 2016 though, noting that many of his party’s top possible contenders, including Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.), Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.) and even Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) have shown a willingness to work for an immigration solution.
“Our party has to nominate someone who is capable of governing, which means identifying urgent needs and proposing a strategy for dealing with them and persuading at least half the people that he or she is right,” said Alexander, who made two brief bids for the White House himself.
“I can’t think of a more urgent need than immigration reform, so that has to be a part of the Republican nominee’s plan for governing the country,” he added.