Defending the Right Flank?

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., made a major move this past weekend to protect his right flank. Alexander made a formal announcement that he will be running for re-election, two years before the 2014 campaign. This precludes anyone trying to raise money over the next two years arguing that Alexander will not be a candidate.

But with the "fiscal cliff" looming and a potential vote on some sort of compromise, Alexander also needs to be prepared to withstand a Tea Party challenge. It is significant that Alexander chose U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan, R-Knoxville, to chair his re-election effort. Duncan's anti-tax increase credentials are impeccable and he has the reputation of being the most conservative member of the Tennessee Congressional delegation.

The disorganized Democrats, who had to disavow primary winner Mark Clayton in U.S. Sen. Bob Corker's re-election, may not be able to field a strong candidate against Alexander in 2014. But a Tea Party candidate in the Republican primary presents more of a challenge. Though Alexander would be a favorite to win, he and his colleagues saw veteran Republican Sen. Richard Lugar go down in an Indiana primary to a more conservative candidate.