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Alexander Easily Defeats Tea Party Challenger in Tennessee Republican Senate Primary

As expected, Sen. Lamar Alexander won his senatorial primary over tea party challenger Joe Carr by a decisive margin, 52% to 38%. Unlike many Southern states, Tennessee does not have a requirement that the winner get 50% to avoid a runoff. It's first past the post in Tennessee, but that didn't matter in the end for the Republicans, but it might matter for the Democrats, where attorney Gordon Ball is at 37% and attorney Terry Adams is at 35% with about 1/3 of the votes counted so far.

Carr's defeat is the most recent in a string of tea party defeats this year. Tea party candidates were hoping to take down incumbent senators in Kentucky, Kansas, Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina, and elsewhere. All of them lost. In the race for the open seat in Georgia, there were half a dozen tea party candidates and the winner was a wealthy businessman, David Perdue, with no tea party support. In Maine, no tea party candidate even emerged to take on Sen. Susan Collins, who is probably the most liberal Republican in the Senate. All in all, the difference with 2010 and 2012 is that the establishment wasn't caught napping this time. Every tea party challenge was taken seriously and fought off bitterly. For the most part, it worked. The only real tea party success was in Nebraska, where Ben Sasse (R-OK) won the Republican nomination to replace the retiring Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE).

The tea party gets one more shot at it. On Aug. 19, Alaska Republicans get to pick their nominee to oppose Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK). The tea party candidate is Joe Miller, the 2010 Republican nominee for the Senate. He has not one, but two, establishment opponents, however: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R-AK), and Dan Sullivan, the former attorney general and former commissioner of natural resources. Current polling puts Sullivan on top, Treadwell second, and Miller third, but Alaska polling is notoriously difficult.

Walsh Drops out of Montana Senate Race

Caught in a scandal caused by the discovery that he plagiarized part of his masters thesis, Sen. John Walsh (D-MT) dropped out of the race yesterday. Walsh was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) when Max Baucus resigned to become ambassador to China. The Democrats have until Aug. 20 to find a replacement for Walsh.

Although Montana is a red state in presidential elections, it has a strong populist streak and often elects Democrats to the governorship and Senate. Nevertheless, all the top Democrats in the state, including Bullock, former governor Brian Schweitzer, superintendent of public instruction Denise Juneau, and state auditor Monica Lindeen have all taken themselves out of the running to replace Walsh. Most likely all of them expect Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) to win the general election and don't want to spend three months crisscrossing this big state only to be branded as a loser in 3 months. There are plenty of other Democrats in Montana and there is bound to be a state legislator who is interested in running to get publicity for a future run at statewide office.

The effect of Walsh dropping out is probably close to zero. Daines was running so far ahead of Walsh that the Democrats had little chance of holding the seat anyway, and replacing Walsh with an unknown Democrat won't change that much.

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