The primary nicknamed Super Duper Tuesday, with elections in 12 states, produced some unexpected winners and losers.
Women under siege.
The night was a triumph for Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Nikki Haley, the South Carolina lawmaker of Indian descent who fell just short of avoiding a runoff for the Republican governor's nomination.
Lincoln was practically written off after she failed to win 50 percent of the vote in a May 18 primary and was forced into a runoff with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. "We sure surprised a lot of folks tonight!" Lincoln wrote to supporters after her victory. How did she do it? She turned Halter's labor and netroots backing against him, telling voters that outsiders shouldn't make their decisions. She had President Obama and the Democratic establishment behind her -- supposedly anathema in these angry times -- but not in this case.
Lincoln also had Bill Clinton, who campaigned for her and made a TV ad
that echoed the outside influence theme. "This is about using you and manipulating your votes" to punish Lincoln for disagreeing with unions, the former president said in the ad. This is the second time in recent weeks that Clinton has helped a Democrat win in tough circumstances. (The first was Mark Critz in a special Pennsylvania House election). Maybe not direct cause and effect, but we've got to call Clinton a winner tonight. Obama, too.
In South Carolina, Haley won 49 percent in a four-person GOP field after dealing with problems that bring to mind the phrase "only in South Carolina." First two men claimed they had affairs
with Haley, who is married with kids. Then Jake Knotts, a GOP state senator, called her and President Obama "ragheads
." Seriously. Way to burnish your reputation for high-minded politics, South Carolina. In the end, the raghead comment diverted attention from the adultery allegations and Haley appeared to benefit from a backlash against both. She faces Rep. Gresham Barrett in a June 22 runoff.
More Election Coverage
- Women Win Big in Key Primaries
- 'Comeback Kid' Lincoln Survives
- Nikki Haley Heads for Runoff in S.C.
- Tea Partier Will Face Reid in Nevada
- Reid, Angle Vulnerable to Ridicule
- California's GOP 'Thelma & Louise'
- The Power of Palin Endorsements
- Is Tea Party Losing Its Strength?
- So Much for Conventional Wisdom
- The Right Wins, the Left Loses
- Elections Boost Tea Party, Women
It mattered in California's Republican primaries. Most spectacularly, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman – a billionaire – spent more than $80 million
, $71 million of it her own
, to win the gubernatorial nomination. She beat insurance commissioner Steve Poizner, a GPS-chip millionaire who spent close to $30 million, most of it his own. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, yet another millionaire, won the GOP Senate nomination after spending a mere $7 million or so against badly financed rivals.
A cautionary note: Rich candidates who throw money at general election campaigns often lose. In California, for instance, Michael Huffington
spent $28 million of his personal fortune on a failed 1994 Senate bid. Whitman says she'll put up to $150 million overall into the race. Her Democratic opponent, former governor and current attorney general Jerry Brown, bypassed the governor's mansion in favor of an ascetic apartment during his first stint as governor. That was 30 years ago.
Labor and the liberal netroots.
Unions sank at least $7 million
and untold volunteer hours into defeating Blanche Lincoln, who had disappointed them bitterly with her opposition to a public insurance option in the health reform bill and to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to form unions. Rep. John Boozman is the Republican nominee and polls show him leading Lincoln
by huge margins.
Politics Daily asked AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka on Tuesday, before the polls closed, if the investment had been worth it. "Supporting people that support working people is always worth it. Opposing people that don't support working people is also not only worth it, but something that we're obligated to do," Trumka replied. Asked if the AFL-CIO would endorse Lincoln if she won, he replied, "That's a decision that our members on the ground make. I would feel highly surprised if they were to do that."
Later, after she won, Trumka said in a statement that while the outcome was not preferred, it was still a victory: "Taking a two-term incumbent in deep red Arkansas into a runoff, and coming within few thousand votes of her, is a virtually unprecedented achievement. If working families were able to accomplish this in Arkansas, imagine what they can achieve in other states," he said.
The netroots had were equally crestfallen. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, the Daily Kos blog and other activists had coaxed Halter into the race
and raised more than $1.2 million
for him at ActBlue.com. They were convinced, with backup from polling
, that he'd be a a stronger candidate against Boozman than Lincoln. "Look for this to be a Republican pick-up in November," Barbara Morrill wrote Tuesday night at Daily Kos
Two of the candidates she endorsed won (Terry Branstad for Iowa governor and Fiorina for California Senate), and Haley appears well positioned for a runoff victory in South Carolina. Palin's backing helped Branstad and Fiorina win credibility with conservatives, and helped Haley withstand the adultery accusations. But Cecile Bledsoe, an Arkansas congressional candidate who received Palin's blessing
just last Thursday, lost.
Lincoln held on, but six-term Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) could be headed for involuntary retirement. He faces a June 22 runoff against Trey Gowdy, who won 39 percent of the vote Tuesday compared with 27.5 percent for Inglis. If Gowdy sustains his momentum through the next two weeks, Inglis could be the second House member to lose his party nomination; Democrat Alan Mollohan of West Virginia was the first.
The Club for Growth and the Tea Party movement.
Sharron Angle won the Republican Senate nomination in Nevada due largely to these two well-heeled anti-tax groups. The Club for Growth spent $628,161
on her race, while the Tea Party Express, through its Our Country Deserves Better
PAC, spent more than $511,000. They get an A on their midterm; final grade on these two groups will come in November, when Angle will face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.