This week's primaries in Kansas and Tennessee are the last hope of the Tea Party's efforts to oust the G.O.P. establishment. So far, conservative efforts to oust deeply entrenched senators and representatives have been unrewarding and — as Mississippi showed us — messy. As the Wall Street Journal notes, only Reps. Eric Cantor and Ralph Hall have been ousted. If that's going to change, it'll happen this week. Meanwhile, Democrats will deal with their own party rift in Hawaii when the late Sen. Daniel Inouye's rejected death bed pick for his senate seat — Rep. Colleen Hanabusa — gets a chance to compete for it.
In Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts will face off against Dr. Milton Wolf, best known for making fun of photos of his patient's X-rays and for being President Obama's second cousin, to his extreme displeasure.
Roberts is probably not well known by anyone in Kansas, since his primary residence is in Virginia. During a February interview in The New York Times he more or less says he doesn't really live in Kansas — he rents a space in a donor's house and has "full access to the recliner."
The Wolf campaign has attempted to use those comments against him (and get him kicked off the ballot) to send him back to Kansas, but Wolf has been trailing Roberts in the polls and in fundraising. That's because Wolf, like his Tea Party counterpart in Tennessee, haven't been able to attract money from groups like Club for Growth to launch big ad campaigns, as The New York Times notes. Wolf has had to settle for stunts, like ambushing Roberts last week to force a debate out of him. (It didn't work — Roberts went into a meeting and Wolf's campaign bus honked for a while.) It helps, too, that Roberts is one of the most conservative senators in the country. Still, Wolf's team is optimistic:
Ben Hartman, Wolf adviser, tells Post there is an "enthusiasm gap" in KS Sen, and in spite of Roberts's $ adv, tonight cld be Brat-esque— Robert Costa (@costareports) August 5, 2014
Sen. Lamar Alexander has raised $6.6 million so far, while state Rep. Joe Carr has raised about $1.1 million. Carr told NPR that Alexander "has shown a willingness to work with the other side instead of standing with our side," which sounds like a compliment but isn't.
He's also taken to criticizing Alexander on his vote for comprehensive immigration reform, which has won him allies like conservative radio show host Laura Ingraham. As USA Today notes, that's very similar to what happened with David Brat, the conservative candidate who beat Rep. Cantor earlier this summer. It's probably not enough for Carr to win, but the ghost of Eric Cantor's political career still haunts primary season.
Sen. Daniel Inouye — who represented Hawaii for over 50 years — was like the state's Kennedy. From his death bed, Inouye asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie to replace him with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, his protege. Instead Abercrombie put his lieutenant governor in the job, and now both of them might pay for it. As The New York Times explained in June, both Abercrombie and interim Sen. Brian Schatz have strong primary challengers, including Hanabusa, who is running against Schatz and leading him in the polls. State Sen. Daniel Ige is leading Abercrombie in the governor race.
Even President Obama has made a rare endorsement in the primary — for Schatz. While he and Gov. Abercrombir supported Obama for president, Inouye and Hanabusa backed Hillary Clinton.