NASHVILLE — Nationally syndicated conservative radio host Laura Ingraham declared Monday that she's "all in" for state Rep. Joe Carr in his GOP primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander while a Tennessee-based conservative group pounded away at Alexander in a new television ad.
On her program on Monday, Ingraham devoted most of a 15 minute segment on her program to the contest, alternating between attacking Alexander for not being sufficiently conservative and supporting Carr, the tea party-backed underdog in the race.
"I'm all in for Joe Carr," Ingraham said. "Look, he's no nonsense, he's a citizen legislator. And he'll be someone who will actually listen to the people."
Meanwhile, the conservative Tennessee-based group Citizens for Ethics in Government over the weekend launched what a knowledgeable Republican says is a $97,295 television buy with an ad attacking Alexander in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis media markets.
"Washington changed Lamar," the ad charges and attacks Alexander on several issues, including that he voted for "amnesty" with regard to illegal immigrants, a charge that both Alexander and an independent watchdog group has said isn't the case.
Citizens for Ethics in Government is headed by health care entrepreneur Andrew Miller, a Carr supporter. Miller did not respond to a request for an interview.
Alexander campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger disputed charges the two-term senator isn't sufficiently conservative.
"National Right to Life endorsed Sen. Alexander," Reisinger said in an email response. "He earned an A rating from the NRA and a 100 percent rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is a conservative senator who knows how to get results."
On yet another front, Tea Party Nation, an Alexander critic, says a poll of 1,099 likely GOP voters it commissioned from Triton Polling on July 10-11 shows Carr's support has "jumped" 16 points since May. Alexander now leads Carr 43-36 percent, according to a report on the poll by Breitbart.com, a Tea Party-allied website.
The poll also shows 6.7 percent of voters supported Memphis physician and businessman George Flinn. Some 10.1 percent of those surveyed were unsure, Breitbart.com reported. Triton's poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.
Alexander has a 50.5 percent job approval rating, according to the poll. That's down from 59 percent from a Tea Party Nation-commissioned poll in May.
The senator has been pounded by both Carr and Flinn on his support last year of an immigration overhaul.
Alexander has defended the bill as one that required strengthening the U.S. border first and would have identified people in the U.S. illegally. They would have to pay penalties and back taxes, find jobs and not be convicted of felonies to win the right to live and work here, Alexander has said.
But Alexander said last year in a joint op/ed piece with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., they would have to wait at least a decade to apply for citizenship and "go to the back of the line" behind those who entered the U.S. legally.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...