Internal Alexander Memo Reveals Wide GOP Primary Lead

An internal poll conducted for Sen. Lamar Alexander's campaign shows the Tennessee Republican with a 45-point lead over his highest-tracking primary opponent, according to a memo obtained by CQ Roll Call. The poll, conducted by North Star Opinion Research, surveyed 600 likely GOP primary voters and found that Alexander enjoys a 67-percent-to-26-percent favorable-to-unfavorable rating. Meanwhile, tea-party-backed state Rep. Joe Carr is struggling to gain name recognition in the state. Seventy percent of likely Republican voters said they have never heard of Carr, up only 3 points from an August poll. Alexander's early lead is indicative of both the struggle by his conservative challengers to gain steam and Alexander's own brand. Alexander, who is seeking a third term, has been a senator for more than a decade, after serving as Tennessee's governor for eight years and later as U.S. secretary of Education. Additionally, Alexander had nearly $3.2 million in cash on hand at the end of the year, as opposed to Carr's $405,000. "This campaign looks essentially the same today as it did last August," pollster Whit Ayres said in the memo. "Given Senator Alexander’s universal name recognition, it will be very difficult for his opponents to move these numbers." The Rothenberg Report/Roll Call rating for the Tennessee race is Safe Republican.