Trey Grayson isn’t the only GOP-favorite candidate facing a tough challenge from a political upstart. Politico reports that Grayson, Charlie Crist in Florida, Rob Simmons in Connecticut and Carly Fiorina in California are all National Republican Senatorial Committee darlings having trouble nabbing their party’s nomination.

Back in August, 23 GOP senators, including Cornyn and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, held a D.C. fundraiser for Grayson’s bid to succeed outgoing Sen. Jim Bunning. Eight months later and just three weeks before the primary, physician Rand Paul holds a 15-percentage-point advantage over Grayson, according to the latest SurveyUSA automated poll.

Paul’s campaign, riding a wave of tea party support, said it was encouraged by the “blowback against the NRSC fundraising” among voters in Kentucky, calling it a tactical error.

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There’s a good chance the primary election upheaval may not matter in the end, given the favorable political environment for GOP candidates and the resources of some of the insurgent candidates.

“One lesson of 2010 is, no one can control all the variables. No leader or committee can change the basic equation,” said Hunter Bates, a Kentucky GOP strategist who called 2010 “an embarrassment of riches” for Republicans.

Another reason that strategists, activists and donors don’t seem overly concerned about which candidate ultimately emerges is that polls show that, in most cases, even the upstart GOP contender remains in a prime position to defeat the Democratic nominee come November.

“The reality is that at the start of this cycle, many political analysts were predicting more GOP Senate losses and yet, 16 months later, we’re on offense in at least nine Democratic seats,” said NRSC communications director Brian Walsh.

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