About 500 tea party activists gathered at a Nashville hotel Tuesday night for a rallying speech by conservative radio show host
Laura Ingraham in support of Senate candidate Joe Carr.
In a speech that seemed to tap into the audience's deep-seated concerns over immigration and the pace of change in the country, Ingraham spoke for 45 minutes to a packed house at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel that attended a "Beat Lamar" rally for Carr.
Comparing U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander to an old sweater, a hooked fish, beige wallpaper and a baseball player who has struck out, Ingraham urged listeners to believe Carr, a three-term state representative from Lascassas, can upset the incumbent senator in the Aug. 7 Republican primary.
She said Alexander has failed to stand up to liberals and Democrats, whom she said were more concerned with reshaping America than standing up for their interests.
"I'm here to tell you that he still is not hearing you," she said.
The appearance came as the Carr campaign is trying to build momentum in the final stages of the race. With a national radio audience, Ingraham could help attract money and supporters to Carr's campaign, which has trailed far behind Alexander's financially.
Another group that backs Carr already has made plans to capitalize on the event. On Wednesday, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, a political action committee, plans to announce it will spend $20,000 on a get-out-the-vote effort in support of Carr.
"It's not as big and sexy as a media buy," said spokesman Kevin Broughton, "but it's pretty authentic."
In her speech, Ingraham touched on longstanding tea party grievances over Obamacare and the bailouts of Wall Street banks, but she — and Carr — hit Alexander especially hard on immigration.
The issue has been central to Carr's and Ingraham's political careers. Both said the immigration reform bill that the Senate passed last year had contributed to the rise in children coming to the border.
"They want a constant supply of uneducated, low-wage labor so they can perpetuate their attack on the American way of life," Carr said.
Alexander voted for that legislation, saying it would strengthen the border, fix a broken immigration system and stop "de facto amnesty."
Also Tuesday, Alexander's campaign released a new TV ad Tuesday that features U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson. In the spot, Thompson says Alexander, whom he describes as a friend off 44 years, "is a conservative United States senator who deserves re-election" and lists off endorsements from groups such as National Right to Life and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"That's why conservatives I know are voting for Lamar," Thompson says.
The campaign said the ad will begin airing Wednesday statewide.
Carr and Ingraham mocked Alexander's endorsements, saying they reflect a senator who is out of touch.
"We have senators in Washington who issue press releases and hide behind endorsements, and who occasionally will show up for the photo op," she said. "I don't particularly think they're making a difference."