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Analysis: Tea Party Senate challengers can take comfort from Texas

U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s weak margin of victory shows other incumbents might be vulnerable

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states ttankThe good news for the other four Republican U.S. senators facing Tea Party challenges this year is that Senator John Cornyn won in Texas.

The bad news? Cornyn’s win was hardly impressive.ME sm

Facing a primary field that was, to be charitable, less than viable, Cornyn failed to clear 60 percent of the vote. More than four in 10 Texas voters in his own party wanted somebody — anybody — else.

Compare that result with the Republican primary race for governor, where Attorney General Greg Abbott swept almost 92 percent of the vote against three challengers.

Cornyn’s chief Tea Party challenger, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, jumped in at the last minute and ran an erratic campaign. That allowed Cornyn to survive.

But imagine what might have happened if a stronger Tea Party competitor had run. No doubt some Texas conservatives who passed on this race are now kicking themselves over what might have been.

Cornyn was a Tea Party target because he is the minority whip in the Senate. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is also facing a primary challenge from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, who, unlike Stockman, is raising money and has the backing of outside conservative groups.

If the unhappiness with Cornyn seen in Texas is duplicated in Kentucky, McConnell could be in trouble.

Likewise, Senators Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, Lamar Alexander in Tennessee and Thad Cochran in Mississippi all face Tea Party challengers.

Alexander and Graham seem to be holding their own. Cochran, on the other hand, faces State Senator Chris McDaniel, who is also getting a boost from outside conservative groups, which sat on the sidelines in Texas.

And in addition to races with incumbents, the preferred GOP establishment candidates for seats in North Carolina, Louisiana and West Virginia are also battling Tea Party challengers. In Georgia, there’s a free-for-all among five major candidates, at least two of whom are expected to draw from the Tea Party part of the party.

Now that he’s survived the primary, Cornyn is the prohibitive favorite to win the general election. But if Tea Party challengers win in any of the other states where they have a shot, Democrats will be waiting in the wings.

That is causing heartburn in the GOP establishment. Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said as much when he opined recently that a McDaniel win in the Magnolia State could open the door for a Democrat.

Cornyn’s tepid showing in Texas isn’t making that heartburn any better.


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