The GOP contest to replace retiring Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander initially seemed like a done deal after President Trump endorsed his former Ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty. But the final weeks leading up to Thursday's August 6 primary have devolved into intense mudslinging between Hagerty and upstart Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi as each candidate tries to paint the other as the fake conservative in the race.

Now, Tennessee Republican insiders believe either candidate has the potential to win, with Sethi possessing the late momentum but the fundamentals of the contest still perhaps favoring Hagerty. Recent elections have shown that Trump's endorsement is as close to a silver bullet as you can get in a GOP primary, but Sethi has honed in on what might be the new Achilles heel for more establishment Republican candidates — previous support of Mitt Romney. This race presents a test of whether new alliances can trump old ones within the Republican Party.

"Hagerty has just wrapped Trump around him until he's like a boa constrictor," remarked one longtime Tennessee Republican strategist. "But Sethi

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