A GOP intra-party battle is taking place in Tennessee, where a Trump-supporting insurgent candidate is gunning for an establishment Republican in the all-important effort to replace retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Dr. Manny Sethi has “swamp” candidate Bill Hagerty in his cross-hairs, and he received a major momentum-boost recently by way of an endorsement from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Although largely eclipsed byhigh-profile Senate races in neighboring Deep South states, the GOP primary brawl in Tennessee is equally telling of a growing conservative realignment in the Trump presidency that somewhat resembles earlier efforts like the Obama-era Tea Party movement.
Just as former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville recently defeated ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Alabama, and GOP Rep. Doug Collins is outpolling incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Georgia, Sethi has cast himself as something of a political outsider taking on the moneyed interests of the Establishment.
Hagerty is a wealthy businessman and former ambassador to Japan. He supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 Republican primary, then moved to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., after Bush’s embarrassing early defeat.
Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin has referred to Hagerty as “Mitt Romney Junior.”
On the other hand, Cruz described Sethi in a Facebook post on Wednesday as a true “conservative fighter that will stand up for our values.”
According to Cruz, Sethi is everything that squish Republicans fear.
He’s unapologetically pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and pro-free-market economy.
As a newcomer, he’s not beholden to the establishment patronage system—and, as a physician, Sethi has made repealing all aspects of Obamacare a central theme of his candidacy.
“There’s a reason the Establishment’s throwing everything they’ve got at Dr. Manny these final days—he’s winning,” said Cruz.
Hagerty’s establishment connections predate his 2016 opposition to President Trump.
Not only is he an advisor and friend to anti-Trump Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the two are former business partners.
He also worked for the George H.W. Bush administration; hired NeverTrumpers; and donated to extensively to the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as he was feuding with President Trump on the 2016 campaign trail.