Monday, October 28, 2013

Will The Republican Civil War Devastate The Tennessee GOP?


Teabaggers are running wild, encouraged by all the media coverage Ted Cruz's infantile nihilism and extremism is getting. They've rewritten history to read-- at least in their own rarified circles-- that Republicans have lost recent elections not because their agenda is too extreme for normal people, but because the platforms aren't extreme enough to bring out the right-wing base. This week teabaggers announced primary campaigns against more conservatives including NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), GOP Senate Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Linda Vega is the 4th teabagger to launch a primary campaign against Cornyn this year. No one is pure enough for the Hate Talk Radio and Fox-created sociopaths on the far right. In Texas alone hard core conservative incumbents Jeb Hensarling, Joe Barton, Kevin Brady, Ralph Hall, Mac Thornberry, Michael Burgess, Pete Sessions,and Lamar Smith are facing teabagger primaries, more Texas Republicans that are facing Democratic primaries! And domestic terrorism suspect Steve Stockman will face off against Michael Cole, the Libertarian candidate from last year who's running as a Democrat next year. In North Carolina mainstream conservative Walter Jones has 3 or 4 teabaggers primarying him and poor old Howard Coble-- the longest-serving Republican congressman in North Carolina's history-- has 3 teabaggers in contend with, two of who are also crackpot fire-and-brimstone Baptist ministers.

There's an ugly pattern developing around the country for Republicans-- who certainly brought this on themselves. Many of them are panic-stricken and bending over backwards to placate the extreme right, which further alienates independents and swing voters. For example, by voting against the deal to reopen the government and take default off the table, over a dozen Republicans who need independents to win general elections-- including Paul Ryan (WI), Sean Duffy (WI), Tom Petri (WI), Jeff Denham (CA), Justin Amash (MI), Tim Walberg (MI), Kerry Bentivolio (MI), John Mica (FL), Steve Southerland (FL), Tom Reed (NY), Joe Pitts (PA), Ed Royce (CA), Jackie Walorski (IN), Steve Pearce (NM), Randy Forbes (VA), and Scott Garrett (NJ)-- have put themselves in grave jeopardy for the 2014 midterm elections. They may have calmed down the extremists for a moment, but now they're open to losing to a Democrat. Tennessee mainstream conservative Senator Lamar Alexander-- who is facing Democrat Terry Adams in the general and far right state Senator Joe Carr, a deranged teabagger, in a primary-- is approaching the challenge differently. As Paul Kane pointed out in the Washington Post yesterday, "Alexander is doing something few other incumbent Republicans have tried recently: Instead of running scared of the tea party, he’s running hard against it."
Alexander hardly mentions tea party icons such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) nor does he call out the hard-right conservative groups such as Heritage Action for America that forced Republicans to pursue the politically disastrous strategy that led to the recent federal government shutdown.

But in speeches across the Volunteer State, Alexander is in the habit of delivering thinly veiled blasts against the “Washington people” and their “voting score cards” who propose to tell Tennesseans what it means to be a Republican. That’s clearly a shot at conservative advocacy groups such as Heritage Action and the Club for Growth, two of the groups that have set new purity criteria for Republicans and have been funding primary challenges against many who do not meet their standards.

…He has mounted a vigorous defense of recent votes in which he joined with Democrats to approve a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws and a farm bill that spends billions on food aid for poor people and some cash payments for farmers and farming conglomerates, including soybean growers here in Trenton.

Behind the scenes, as the Cruz-led strategy to shut down the federal government went on this month, Alexander emerged as the key behind-the-scenes Republican finding a path to reopen the government and increase the federal debt limit to avoid a potential default. Deputized by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Alexander worked with a bipartisan group that paved the way for the final pact, making good on the promise he delivered to the farmers in this tiny west Tennessee town a month earlier.

“If all we do is stand around handing each other score cards, we won’t get anything done,” Alexander said. “That’s why, in the current health-care debate, I’m not in the shut-down- the-government crowd. I’m in the take-charge-of-the-government crowd, and get something done.”

Unlike his state’s other recent senators-- including three presidential candidates and a vice president-- Alexander’s national ambitions were both obvious and unrealized before he got to the Senate, having run twice for president after serving two terms as governor and as education secretary. Elected to the Senate in 2002, he began edging his way up the leadership ladder until two years ago when he abruptly resigned as Republican Conference chairman.

The stated purpose was liberation from toeing the party line, so that he could pursue more bipartisan work.

All that has infuriated people like Ben Cunningham, the founder of the Nashville Tea Party and a leading anti-tax advocate in the state for the past decade.

“I don’t think anybody has any illusion about how difficult it is going to be to beat Lamar,” Cunningham said. “A lot of things have to come together."

He and other Tennessee hard-line conservatives met last fall at a tea party gathering in Cincinnati with activists who in 2012 helped defeat incumbent Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and with strategists who propelled Cruz to an upset victory in the Texas primary. The first counsel was to make sure Alexander got into a one-on-one battle so that the conservative vote wouldn’t splinter, which could let Alexander win with just a plurality (as did Gov. Bill Haslam in 2010 and Sen. Bob Corker in 2006 in GOP primaries).

The collection of tea party groups settled on state Rep. Joe Carr, whose first ad [below] this week accused Alexander of working “behind closed doors trading favors” on the bill to reopen the government.

He opposes the immigration bill that Alexander helped negotiate and the Senate’s version of the farm bill. A state representative from about 40 miles southeast of Nashville, Carr has never spent more than $125,000 in a campaign. After dabbling with running in a House race, Carr instead leapt into the Senate race but raised just $52,000 in the third quarter.

He frankly admitted that his candidacy is reliant on outside conservative groups jumping into the race. Those groups told Carr they would be willing to spend up to $5 million if Carr can convince them he has a chance to win.

“For us to be able to have an opportunity to get that money in play so we can be competitive, we have to raise our own money,” he said. “It’s our intention to raise as much money as we can to prove to the outside groups across the country that this is a race of national interest.”

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