Tea Party Struggles To Repeat Cantor-style Shock In Tennessee

The shock defeat of Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary in Virginia this week has fueled hopes among Tea Party activists in Tennessee that they can stage a similar upset against Senator Lamar Alexander in August.

But the Cantor loss, while enough to shake Washington and the Republican establishment, may not be a sign of things to come as the Tea Party movement has yet to show this year it can find a consistent winning formula against Republican incumbents.

In Tennessee, Alexander’s challenger - Tea Party state representative Joe Carr – is regarded by many political experts as unqualified for a Senate race and he is trailing by up to 40 points in the polls. He is also up against a lawmaker who is well prepared and a statewide Republican Party that is pushing to thwart the Tea Party.

By contrast, Cantor’s loss has been widely seen as a result of  his over-confidence, neglect of his district and voter anger at someone who had a pivotal leadership role in a gridlocked Congress.

“Lamar Alexander has taken the threat of a primary challenger seriously right from the start," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "He knew he had a target on his back."

Carr's local Tea Party backers argue that Cantor's opponent David Brat did not have national backing or serious funding either.

But Republican strategist O'Connell says a Senate race is far more challenging to win than a House race because of the large distances you need to travel and the many more media markets you need compete in.

Carr is also further hampered by the limited resources of the national conservative groups who can only compete in a few races and need to deliver results to help raise more money, O'Connell said. 

Read more from Nick Carey at Reuters

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