Ok, calling it Super Tuesday is a bit of an exaggeration. But there were several primaries held across the nation that defined (or left ambiguous) the major players that will be on party tickets come this November. Although only few elections were held, there were some interesting developments and information we can carry into the mid-term elections this Fall. Below, I’ve picked out my Top 5 Races from last night and explain their significance to the national scene.
5. Oregon Governor – Republican Primary – Chris Dudley defeats Allen Alley
Because who doesn’t want a 7’0″ governor with a 46% career free throw percentage? Surely if he can block Alonzo Mourning, he can defend the state against liberal policies from Washington! In serious it will be a tough election for a Republican to win. Oregon is a progressive state, and the popular Democrat senator Ron Wyden will also be up for re-election in a separate race that will surely bring out the Democratic vote. But, Dudley is probably the best candidate the Oregon Republicans have to run this Fall, so the Governor’s mansion could be there for the taking.
4. Arkansas Senate – Democratic Primary – Stalemate between Blanche Lincoln and Bill Halter
Lincoln won the majority during her primary run to retain her seat in the Senate, however she did reach the necessary 50% to avoid a run-off election in the near future against Halter. The liberal machine was working extra hard against Lincoln, who is seen as too conservative of a Democrat to the disdain of her party. The Arkansas electorate is very odd compared to other southern states — the state that has had former Governors Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee. My guess is things do not look good for Lincoln. Traditionally a run-off is tough for an incumbent to pull off in an already bad incumbent cycle. And with the extra weeks the unions have to campaign against her, look for her to be knocked off and this seat to go Republican in November.
3. Pennsylvania Senate – Democratic Primary – Joe Sestak upsets Arlen Specter
Nobody loves Arlen. Calling this race an upset is sort of not giving Sestak enough credit. He ran a great campaign. Despite having the support from Democratic leaders – whether it was full-throated from Obama or not – Governor Rendell, and the state unions, Sestak managed to upend the 5 term United States senator. Sestak didn’t panic when he fell behind by double digits in late polling, and perfectly timed his attack on Specter for flipping parties in 2009 in hopes of saving his own job. It was shrewd, back-alley politics when Specter agreed to switch parties and the Obama administration agreed to campaign in support of his re-election. But when the polls began showing a Sestak victory, Obama and cronies were nowhere to be found, to avoid leaving there fingerprints at the crime scene. Pennsylvania should be another tightly contested race in November, but I think the Republican Pat Toomey has a better chance defeating the more liberal Sestak than he did defeating Specter.
2. Kentucky Senate – Republican Primary – Rand Paul destroys Trey Grayson
In what is being seen as a great repudiation of Mitch McConnell, the Tea Party-backed son of Ron Paul beat McConnell and the Republican establishment’s choice Trey Grayson by 24 points. The more conservative candidate had an easy-going of it in this primary, but with be in a dogfight with the Democratic nominee Jack Conway in November. Paul was the easy choice in the closed primary of registered Republicans but it is yet to be seen if he can carry the moderate vote.
What I take as the most jarring fact from this election for the national Republican Party is McConnell’s failure to rise support from his own home state. The House Minority leader was very vocal in his support for Grayson, and he got destroyed on his own turf. I have been advocating for a while that the Republican Party should focus on new leadership for the upcoming congressional caucus. Personally, I would want to remove the past leadership that has been in charge during the conservative downturn – regardless if they are directly at fault. I think Sen. Thune as Senate Leader and Rep. Paul or Rep. Cantor would be fresh faces without the years of political tread that could re-energize the base before November.
1. Pennsylvania House – Special Election – Mark Critz (D) defeats Tim Burns (R)
Finally, the #1 race with national ramifications occurred in western Pennsylvania in a special election for the House seat lef by the deceased Rep. Murtha (D). Critz won the seat by 8 points, which is much more that Republicans had hoped. The Republican Party is trying to spin the loss as no big deal; Murtha the Democrat had held the seat for 30 years and we weren’t supposed to win. Also Critz is a pro-life, anti-health care Democrat – which points to how moderate of a candidate the Democrats had to run in order to win the race. I’ll add, which I haven’t heard much elsewhere, that Pennsylvania also had the hotly contested Democratic Senator race which brought out the more liberal voters supporting Sestak.
But, whether Murtha held the seat for the decades or not, it is still a conservative district that voted McCain over Obama. If the Republicans have any hope to win back the House in 2010, they can’t be losing moderate districts like this. I am not optimistic we will win the seats necessary to dethrone Pelosi if we cannot win tight special election races with the voting blocks of PA-12.