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First Read Flash: Tennessee waltz

Lamar Alexander gets a primary challenger, but he's stumbling right out of the gate. Plus: A top GOP strategist crosses the aisle to McAuliffe's campaign and EMILY's List is backing Grimes in Kentucky.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

Lamar Alexander gets a primary challenger, but he's stumbling right out of the gate. Plus: A top GOP strategist crosses the aisle to McAuliffe's campaign and EMILY's List is backing Grimes in Kentucky.

TENNESSEE. “Waging an insurgency campaign from the far right, Tennessee Rep. Joe Carr announced Tuesday that he’s challenging U.S. Lamar Alexander in next year’s Republican primary, giving tea party activists at least one candidate to take on Tennessee’s longest-serving statewide politician. But at this point, he isn’t necessarily the tea party’s consensus pick, and more candidates could surface. Carr also lost his campaign director from his previous race right out of the gate.”

Carr lost his top strategist, former state GOP Chairman Chip Saltsman, after switching to the U.S. Senate race from a primary against Rep. Scott DesJarlais. Saltsman, in a letter: “I signed up to help you run for Congress, not the Senate….It is because of Lamar Alexander that people like you have the honor of serving in the majority of the state legislature…I am honored to support Lamar Alexander for re-election.”

And it wasn’t a good start out of the gate for Carr, who misspelled “Sentate” on his campaign logo.

Alexander addressed the criticism head-on, with an op-ed in the Tennessean. “Washington needs more, not fewer, conservatives who know how to govern. Governing means listening, standing up for what you believe in and solving problems to get a result. I did that as governor. I’m doing that as senator. I’m proud of that record.”

VIRGINIA. AP’s Bob Lewis: “Boyd Marcus, a veteran Republican political consultant whose client list has included U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former Gov. Jim Gilmore, is endorsing Democrat Terry R. McAuliffe and advising his campaign against GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia’s neck-and-neck race for governor.”

Richmond Times Dispatch: “Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe holds a six-percentage-point edge over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the first Quinnipiac University poll of the campaign among voters likely to cast ballots in the November election. McAuliffe holds a 48-42 percent lead in the survey released this morning. The last poll,  taken in July, questioned only registered voters in Virginia.”

KENTUCKY. EMILY’s List is endorsing Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in her bid against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In a statement, EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock called Grimes an ‘energetic rising star,’” The Hill reports. “‘She is an incredible leader who has fought for women and families by protecting victims of domestic violence, supporting state and local businesses, championing voting rights, and advocating for military personnel.’”

AP: “McConnell unleashed another attack against his Republican primary challenger Tuesday, releasing a TV ad accusing Matt Bevin of embellishing his educational credentials. The political newcomer replied that the five-term incumbent was stooping to a new low in hopes of hanging onto his job…Bevin’s campaign said that from 2006 to 2008, he attended the EO/MIT entrepreneurial master’s program, an annual four-day seminar held at MIT but put on by Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a network of business owners. The program is not affiliated with MIT, said Kate Anderson with MIT’s Sloan School of Management.”

NORTH CAROLINA. Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx won’t run for Senate next year, Roll Call reports. “For months, Republican operatives mentioned Foxx as a potential candidate to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan — although it was somewhat unclear just how serious the five-term Republican was about a statewide race.”

MICHIGAN.Roll Call: “Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., endorsed former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land’s bid for Senate on Tuesday, calling the GOP hopeful ‘the type of woman we need to put forward more often in the Republican Party.’”

SOUTH CAROLINA. The State: “Is Jim DeMint targeting U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for defeat in 2014? The former U.S. senator from Greenville, who resigned on New Year’s Day to lead a conservative Washington-based think tank, and fellow Republican Graham occasionally voted against each other while in the Senate. But they rarely criticized each other in public. But Tuesday, the Senate Conservatives Fund – the political action committee that DeMint founded in 2008 – released a radio ad in South Carolina criticizing Graham for recently saying that voting to defund the Affordable Care Act was “a bridge too far.”

And the Columbia State also notes that it’s Graham, not the appointed Sen. Tim Scott, who’s attracting primary opponents in 2014.