Share This Page

Tenn. GOP senator Alexander tries to stare down Tea Party

| Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 6:30 p.m.

TRENTON, Tenn. — As he seeks a third term in the Senate, Lamar 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-Texas.

But in speeches across the Volunteer State, Alexander is in the habit of delivering thinly veiled blasts against the “Washington people” and their “voting scorecards” 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 those who do not meet their standards.

At every campaign stop, Alexander offers a parable about the future of the Republican Party based on the tale of two famous Tennesseans who went to battle at the Alamo — Davy Crockett and Sam Houston. It's about defiance and defeat versus pragmatism and victory.

Congressional Republicans, Alexander says, are like Crockett, who fought to the death. For his part, Alexander explains, he'd rather be like Houston, who “withdrew to a better place — he got some criticism for that — he showed some patience. But then he defeated Santa Anna and won the independence of Texas,” he said, as nearly 100 heads nodded at a farm bureau meeting.

Independent analysts and strategists in both parties think Alexander has a good chance of winning his primary against a low-profile state representative. He is far ahead in polling, and his willingness to confront the Tea Party makes it one of the most important bellwether races in the country.

Other more-moderate GOP senators have stared down challenges from their right flank, most notably Sens. John McCain of Arizona, but shied away from a bipartisan record.

Alexander is not running away from his record as a pragmatic conservative. 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 the poor and some cash payments for farmers.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.