If Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr aims to be the next Dave Brat, the Virginia college professor who upset House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his primary election earlier this month, he’ll have to get on his horse.
Carr, actually called the “next Dave Brat” in one analysis by CNBC, would like to upend two-term U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., in the state’s August primary by suggesting the senator is out of touch with his constituents.
That was the same argument made about Cantor, but Tennesseans may have a hard time buying that one. Although the Senate is in session Monday through Thursday, Alexander has spent more than half of his nights since being elected back in the Volunteer State, according to an aide.
This is also the guy who also walked 1,000 miles across the state in a red and black plaid shirt in his 1978 campaign for governor and later served as University of Tennessee president.
After last Tuesday’s election, folks also might be a bit confused about the headline “Tennessee is the Next Mississippi” on Carr’s website.
Carr apparently thought challenger Chris McDaniel, a state senator who was opposing Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi, would be the next candidate to topple an incumbent, but McDaniel was narrowly defeated.
Election analyses of that race indicate Cochran won with a last-minute appeal to blacks and other Democrats about what they might lose if McDaniel were to win.
“They say the other guy (McDaniel) is trying to cut food stamps and all that,” an Associated Press report quoted an unemployed Hattiesburg man saying his pastor told him.
Alexander, with $3 million in campaign funds to spend, won’t need to use that deplorable strategy.
And with his 100 percent ratings from the United States Chamber of Commerce and National Right to Life and an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, it’ll be difficult to portray him as a weak conservative.
Alexander, according to his campaign’s polling, also has roughly a 4-1 lead over Carr.
Cantor’s internal poll gave him a 34 percent lead over Brat two weeks ahead of their race, but he used a different polling company than the Tennessee senator does.
Alexander’s pollster, Whit Ayers, is the same one used by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who breezed to victory over six opponents in his primary on the same day Cantor lost.
Locally, it’s not likely either the Cantor-Brat or Cochran-McDaniel races will have much effect on the 3rd District Republican primary race between U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, and challenger Weston Wamp.
Fleischmann doesn’t have the name recognition across the country as Cantor did and so has no reason not to be in his district when the House is not in session. Neither is Wamp a challenger whose strength comes from tea party backing.
That race is likely to be determined by how persuasive Wamp is.
While Fleischmann is in Washington when the House is in session, Wamp is campaigning in the district, which runs from the Kentucky border to the Georgia border. He has intentionally, he said several weeks ago, been targeting the rural counties where he did the worst in his first — albeit three-way — race against Fleischmann two years ago.
Wamp won Hamilton County two years ago, is not likely to win Anderson County this time around because of the money the incumbent brings to the government facilities in Oak Ridge, and may have an uphill climb in McMinn County, the home of 2012 candidate Scottie Mayfield who has endorsed Fleischmann.
That leaves Polk and Bradley counties, where he had his second and third best finishes two years ago, plus Campbell, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott and Union counties where his percentage of the 2012 vote ranged between 10.47 and 22.51 percent.
Wamp said he has accepted practically every opportunity to speak to residents in those counties, has appeared on radio programs and has met people in and around his campaign RV.
The rap on the challenger is that he has little on his resume, but he is one of the founders of bustling venture incubator Lamp Post Group. And his intense passion about becoming the first millennial to serve in Congress, his interest in the improved use of technology within government and his entrepreneurial drive are infectious.
Fleischmann, who has done his due diligence with veterans assistance, with Oak Ridge installations and on the effort to get funding to restart the work on Chickamauga Dam, has to convince primary voters they have no reason to look elsewhere.
With that template, Wednesday’s first head to head debate between the two at the WTCI-TV studio, which will be broadcast on WTCI at 8 that night, could be pivotal as Fleischmann defends his record and Wamp tries to convince voters he’s a better choice.