Joe Carr, a GOP Senate candidate in Tennessee waging a long-shot bid to unseat Sen. Lamar Alexander, was addressing a group of 80 tea party activists on the night of Eric Cantor’s primary when word of the House majority leader’s loss rippled through the audience. “The place went nuts,” Carr said.
Over the next 36 hours, his underfunded campaign received between $40,000 and $50,000 from donors. They saw new hope in a challenger who’d been seen as having no chance against Alexander, a two-term senator and former governor."It was absolutely a big shot in the arm,” said Carr, a state lawmaker and owner of a family farm.
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Only a few weeks ago the tea party’s obituary was being written as GOP incumbents and establishment-backed challengers beat back over tea party-inspired foes in one primary after another. Then along came Dave Brat.
The Republican economics professor’s win over Cantor has delivered a jolt to what had been a mostly sleepy primary season, infusing underdog challengers with newfound optimism. Campaign contributions that had dried up are beginning to flow. Volunteers are coming on board. And reporters that had been ignoring the underdog candidates are starting to pay attention.