NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — For U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the elder statesman of Tennessee politics, a primary challenge by a little-known tea party opponent was supposed to be little more than a glorified victory lap around the state.
Instead, the former governor and two-time presidential candidate had to crank up the campaign machinery in the closing weeks of the Republican primary to fend off state Rep. Joe Carr.
And while Alexander ultimately won, it was by just 9 percentage points — a far smaller margin than his campaign and most political observers had expected.
That result is giving hope to tea party supporters that they could be poised to break the moderate wing of the state Republican Party's decades-long grip on statewide races.
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