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July 28, 2014 12:50 PM A Bead on Lamar!

By Ed Kilgore

So if you believe gabbers like Laura Ingraham were significantly responsible for the shocking defeat of Eric Cantor, it’s worth noting she’s drawn a bead on Sen. Lamar Alexander, generally thought to be drifting towards an easy August 7 primary win over state representative Joe Carr, a Tea Party favorite. Here’s a report from RealClearPolitics’ Toby Harndon on Ingraham’s activities in Tennessee:

At a raucous campaign event in Nashville last week, Ingraham accused President Barack Obama of “fomenting a crisis at our border that seeks to undermine the very fabric of American rule of law, our sovereignty, our national identity”.
Her most withering contempt was aimed at her own party’s estab­lish­ment — the “good old boys” and “go along to get along Republican politicians doing backroom backslapping” with Democrats, being as eff­ective as “beige wallpaper”.
Ingraham has already claimed the scalp of Representative Eric Cantor, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, by headlining a massive rally that helped to propel his obscure opponent to a shock victory in a party primary last month.
Her appearance in Nashville was on behalf of Joe Carr, a rough-edged candidate from Tennessee who has support from the grassroots Tea Party movement. He is standing on a “no amnesty” platform to oust Senator Lamar Alexander, a genteel deal-maker on Capitol Hill, in an August 7th primary.

Alexander was one of the fourteen Senate Republicans who voted for the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill last year. But he’s outspent Carr six-to-one, and the more credible polls haven’t shown Carr getting any traction (yes, Tea Party Nation has commissioned two polls showing Carr closing in, but I wouldn’t trust much of anything coming from that particular group).

Given the latest upsurge of hostility to “amnesty” among rank-and-file Republicans, and its apparent impact in the Georgia GOP SEN runoff just last week, it makes sense that Carr and his backers would make this the centerpiece of his campaign. While earlier in the cycle Alexander looked like another Lindsey Graham, impervious to (or at least capable of managing) the right-wing winds in the GOP, now you do have to wonder if he’s a bit more like Thad Cochran or even Cantor. Aside from Ingraham, Sarah Palin has also endorsed Carr. Whatever you think of her generally, she doesn’t usually endorse stone losers.

Ol’ Lamar! (the self-appellation he used in his 1996 presidential campaign) has had quite a career. Originally a staffer for Howard Baker (and briefly, Richard Nixon), he fit neatly into the ancient East Tennessee/Appalachian tradition of moderate Republicanism exemplified by Baker. He won his party’s gubernatorial nomination in the unlucky Watergate year of 1974, and lost to the infamous (Pardon Me) Ray Blanton, and then won in 1978 and 1982. He was a prominent national figure, often working across party lines (especially with Bill Clinton) to promote good-government initiatives like education reform. He served as Education Secretary under Poppy Bush, and launched a momentarily strong “outsider” presidential campaign in 1996 (which he reprised briefly in 2000) under the somewhat anachronistic (since Republicans had taken over Congress in 1994) anti-Washington slogan of “cut their pay and send them home.” He succeeded Fred Thompson in the Senate in 2002, and is running for a third term at the vulnerable age of 74.

With only ten days until the primary (yes, Tennessee is holding its primary on a Thursday, a practice it began in 2012), there’s not much time for Carr to catch up with Alexander. So an upset remains very unlikely. But Ingraham would become even more unsufferably arrogant if she could claim a second RINO purge in Tennessee.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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