Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander will launch a round of early television advertisements in eight media markets around Tennessee, according to sources privy to ad buying data, more than a year before the state holds its primary elections.
Alexander will spend $180,000 to run two weeks of advertisements, the sources said. The vast majority of that money, $110,000, will go toward broadcast and cable advertisements in the Nashville market. Alexander's campaign will spend $10,000 and $14,000 on cable ads in the Memphis and Knoxville markets, respectively.
The campaign is also buying smaller lots of cable advertisements in Chattanooga, the Tri Cities, Jackson, Huntsville, Alabama and Paducah, Kentucky, all media markets that reach Tennessee voters. Alexander is also spending $24,000 on radio spots, an advisor to the campaign said.
The advertisement spotlights the Freedom to Fish Act, a law that delays plans by the Army Corps of Engineers to restrict access to fishing spots along the Cumberland River. Sign of the times: Sen. Rand Paul, the Tea Party darling from neighboring Kentucky, shows up three times in the ad. "Nobody wants to say no to Lamar Alexander," Paul says at one point (The Cumberland River runs through Kentucky as well).
Recent history offers a pretty convincing case that Alexander isn't worried about a Democratic opponent next year. Democrats haven't won a statewide office in Tennessee since 2006, when Gov. Phil Bredesen won a second term, and they haven't won a Senate seat since one Albert A. Gore Jr. won re-election in 1990, two years before Bill Clinton picked him to be vice president. The state swung hard right in 2010, when Republicans won three Democratic-held House seats.
But Alexander's advisors offer frequent hints that he's more concerned with a primary challenge. His campaign has polled Republican voters several times; they brag every time a survey comes back showing Alexander's high approval ratings. It's probably not a coincidence that Alexander's ad comes just a week after he joined 13 other Republicans in voting for the comprehensive immigration reform measure that passed the Senate.
Alexander has the money to burn. A top advisor said his campaign finance report, which is due in by July 15, will show Alexander raised $2 million in the second quarter of the year. Alexander started the quarter with $1.8 million in the bank.
Tennessee's primary is scheduled for August 7, 2014.