The Washington Post declares, "Internal poll shows Sen. Lamar Alexander in strong position," and everybody seems to think Alexander will dance to victory against those wacky tea partiers. "Tennessee waltz?" MSNBC chortles. "Poll says Alexander can withstand Tea Party challenge." Closer to home, Tom Humphrey is ready to call it a "Lamar lock on reelection (or pretty close)."
Seriously? To borrow from Sarah Palin, will that lamestream media never learn?
Anyone who thinks any poll taken so many months before any election is all that meaningful should take a look at what happened to Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar. At the end of 2010, he was his state's most popular politician with a 66% favorable rating. The tea partier Richard Mourdock was at 14%. By April of 2012 in their Republican primary, Lugar trailed Mourdock by 5 points, and the senator wound up losing 61%-39%.
All it took to bring down Lugar was a few million dollars worth of negative TV ads from outside conservative groups.
Tea partiers here have yet to come together behind one candidate. If they do and that candidate is at least semi-credible, then outside money likely will flow into Tennessee as well. Tea Party Express already has committed to help fund a serious challenger if one emerges. With his moderate voting record, Alexander is every bit as vulnerable on the issues as Lugar.
Run a few TV ads pointing out Alexander votes with President Obama 62% of the time and—boom!—Lamar's approval rating isn't so high anymore.
It all has to fall into place but, no matter what his polls say now, Alexander's defeat at the hands of the tea party is well within the realm of the possible as Lugar and other establishment Republicans have learned.