Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee step into House primary battles

There are two Republican primaries for Congress on Tuesday that are sure to draw national attention, in large part because they involve supporters of candidates who are national political figures.  So, whatever the outcomes in the GOP contests to nominate candidates for open House seats in Kentucky’s 4th District and Arkansas’s 4th District, watch for the punditocracy to interpret how they were affected by Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee respectively.

In Kentucky’s 4th District, which has been Republican for all but eight years since 1962, a classic clash between the “outsider” and “insider” is in store for the seat Rep. Geoff Davis is relinquishing.  The establishment candidate is State Rep. Alicia Webb-Edgington, while the “outsider” is Thomas Massie, an MIT graduate and executive judge from Northern Kentucky.

Sen. Rand Paul has strongly endorsed Massie, who was hailed in Reason Magazine as “the next Rand Paul.”  Whether it is abolishing the Department of Education or ending farm subsidies, Massie takes as solid a libertarian line as Paul and his father Ron. 

With the retirement of veteran Democratic Rep. Mike Ross, it has long been taken for granted that the last of Arkansas’s four U.S. House districts in Democratic hands would be picked up by the GOP.  Former Miss Arkansas Beth Anne Rankin, a protégé of and onetime aide to former Gov. Huckabee, gave Ross a tough race in 2010 and is trying again.  This time, however, Rankin faces a primary foe right out of the movies: Tom Cotton, Harvard Law School graduate with tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq under his belt.

Rankin and Cotton would more than likely vote the same solidly conservative line in Congress.  But the nature of their support is different.  Where Rankin is backed by most state and national pro-family groups, Cotton is supported by the Club for Growth and the Tea Party Express.