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August 06, 2014 4:15 PM Lamar! Better Be Careful

By Ed Kilgore

I didn’t see Harry Enten’s FiveThirtyEight piece from yesterday comparing Pat Roberts to Lamar Alexander in terms of likelihood to be upset in a GOP primary—until today. Now we know Roberts has won, albeit not by a very big margin (7 points) against a damaged challenger. So that makes you wonder if Enten’s statistically driven demonstration that Alexander should be more vulnerable than Roberts could prophesy a possible upset tomorrow.

I won’t go through Enten’s math, but he basically argues (quite plausibly) that Republican senators with relatively moderate records in states where Barack Obama has done very poorly are inherently vulnerable, and even more so if they have favored comprehensive immigration reform. This last point is germane to the Alexander/Roberts comparsion, since the former voted for the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill while Roberts has the highest possible rating from the anti-immigration group NumbersUSA. Alexander’s rating is down there with Thad Cochran’s, and his opponent, Joe Carr, and Carr’s noisy backer Laura Ingraham, have focused heavily on the issue.

It’s probably safe to say that virtually no one in Washington (well, nobody other than the Breitbartians) thinks Alexander is in real trouble. He’s campaigned heavily, moved a bit to the right on many issues, and has vastly outspent Carr. Nor has Carr attracted help from the big-money conservative groups like Club for Growth or the Senate Conservatives Fund (which backed Wolf). If this race turns out to be close—much less if Carr actually wins—it will be another pressure point pushing Republicans to the right on immigration.

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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