Joe Carr knows how to make a splash.
The Tennessee Republican, who is running against Lamar Alexander for the United States Senate, decided to give away a gun.
Not just any gun.
He’s giving away a Beretta 92A1 pistol. He decided to do that partially to celebrate Beretta’s move to Tennessee, but also to get some attention. Even he was surprised as 30,000 people signed up for a chance to win that pistol.
“I knew that giving away a Beretta 92A1 would be popular, but I didn’t anticipate it would be this popular,” Mr. Carr said.
There is another surprise in that race as well.
That surprise is the absence of the conservative establishment.
Just to the north, in Kentucky, the conservative establishment is spending a lot of money trying to defeat Mitch McConnell. Groups such as the Senate Conservatives Fund and Freedom Works are pouring money and resources into that state. The SCF for example, has poured money into Kentucky and Kansas where Dr. Milton Wolf is challenging longtime senator Pat Roberts. In Mississippi, they are helping Chris McDaniel against longtime Republican establishment Senator Thad Cochran.
Yet when it comes to challenging one of the most liberal Republicans in the United States Senate, the conservative establishment is nowhere to be found.
Heritage Action gives Mr. Alexander a score of 46 percent on its scorecard. The average Republican in the Senate gets a 67. Mr. McConnell scores an 80. Mr. Roberts scores 90 on Heritage Action.
There are a lot of obvious questions that need to be asked.
Why are the groups that make up the conservative establishment taking a pass on Tennessee? Granted Tennessee has one of the later primaries, but none of the groups has made an effort to even do anything for Mr. Carr.
Unlike the challengers in Kentucky and Kansas, Mr. Carr has a legislative track record people can look at. He has a history of being a conservative. Only six Republicans, including Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain have worse voting records than Mr. Alexander.
Mr. Alexander is the most liberal Republican up for election this year, so where is the Senate Conservatives Fund?
Middle Tennessee State University released a poll in February showing that Mr. Alexander was having serious difficulty. His popularity had slid from well over 50 percent to 43 percent. Those numbers are a nightmare for an incumbent. More importantly, his numbers are falling among independents and Democrats, who can vote in Tennessee’s open primary.
All politics are fundamentally personal. Tea Party activists as well as grassroots conservative activists need to be asking a serious question. When the conservative establishment wants to primary Republican senators who have conservative records, why aren’t they going after the most liberal Republican senator in a competitive race?