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TURN THE PAGE: GOP INCUMBENTS HOLD THE LINE
NASHVILLE – The conservative insurgency won’t be able to oust an incumbent moderate Republican Senator this cycle. With Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander’s closer-than-expected but still convincing primary victory over state Rep. Joe Carr here last night, the only incumbent still facing a primary is Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., on Aug. 19, and he’s a staunch conservative who already beat back a challenge from the establishment.
This year is different than the last two campaign cycles, in which national groups, with the Senate Conservatives Fund at the fore, have been able to pick off at least one moderate incumbent. They came achingly close in Mississippi, some 8,000 votes shy in a runoff, but they could not pull it off. In 2010, the RINO hunt knocked off Sen. Robert Bennett in Utah and forced Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania to flee the party. In 2012, it was Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who went down.
While there have been RINO safaris in the field at least since the 1960s, they didn’t do much good until the past four years. The last incumbent Republican senator to lose a primary prior to 2010 was New Hampshire’s Bob Smith, who had left and returned to the party surrounding an ill-advised 2000 presidential run. Smith lost to double establishmentarian John E. Sununu in 2002.