The Fix: primaries

The Fix’s top 10 primaries of 2014

The Fix’s top 10 primaries of 2014

The primary landscape is heating up.

Since we first ranked the most interesting primaries on the map in early October, there have been several notable developments across the landscape, ranging from national groups and figures taking a keener interest to a campaign staff shakeup to a family feud that has intensified.

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Ousting a senator in a primary? Not so easy.

Ousting a senator in a primary? Not so easy.

Barely removed from the 2012 election, the 2014 chatter has already begun. In the Senate, much of it involves which incumbents might face primaries. For activists who've long opposed a senator despite belonging to the same party, the hope is that the scuttlebutt materializes into a strong challenge. But, the reality is that knocking a senator out of office in a primary is no easy feat.

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Lindsey Graham: Obama's worst enemy and best friend

Lindsey Graham: Obama's worst enemy  and best friend

Nobody is a bigger thorn in President Obama's side right now than Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).And nothing could be better for Graham's political prospects in 2014.

Graham has been such an outspoken critic of Obama on Libya that the president called him out by name at last week's press conference. "If Sen. (John) McCain and Sen. Graham, and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me," Obama said after Graham and McCain criticized U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

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Lamontagne and Hassan win primaries in New Hampshire governor’s race

Updated at 10:10 p.m.

Former Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne (R) will face former state senator Maggie Hassen (D) in the open New Hampshire governor’s race after both sailed to primary wins Tuesday.

Lamontagne, an attorney who lost a 2010 Senate primary to now-Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and was also the state GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in 1996, easily dispatched former state representative Kevin Smith, taking 69 percent of the vote with 53 percent of precincts reporting.

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Rep. Cicilline wins primary in Rhode Island

Rep. Cicilline wins primary in Rhode Island

Embattled Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) has easily survived a primary scare, winning a rematch of his 2010 primary and setting the stage for a marquee House race this fall.

With 74 percent of precincts reporting, Cicilline led businessman Anthony Gemma 61 percent to 31 percent. In the general election, he will faceformer state police superintendent Brendan Doherty, who was unopposed for the GOP nomination.

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David Cicilline: Rhode Island Democrats’ big headache

David Cicilline: Rhode Island Democrats’ big headache

Most observers think Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) will be fine in today’s primary. The question is how fine.

The former Providence mayor and freshman congressman has seen his approval rating drop precipitously since winning his seat in 2010, as his supposedly strong record as mayor disappeared after the city discovered a $110 million budget shortfall.

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Joe Kennedy III sails to primary win

Joe Kennedy III sails to primary win

As Democrats gathered for the final night of their national convention in Charlotte on Thursday, the first family of the Democratic Party took another step toward returning to Congress.

Joe Kennedy III easily won his congressional primary Thursday in Massachusetts.

The 31-year-old son of former congressman Joe Kennedy II and grandson of Robert F. Kennedy had a huge financial advantage over two lesser-known opponents and easily grabbed more than 90 percent of the vote. He is a heavy favorite to succeed retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) in a strongly Democratic district.

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Rep. Mica defeats Rep. Adams in Florida; Rep. Stearns on verge of defeat

Rep. Mica defeats Rep. Adams in Florida; Rep. Stearns on verge of defeat

Rep. John Mica defeated Rep. Sandy Adams in a member-versus member primary in Florida on Tuesday, while another of the state’s Republicans, Rep. Cliff Stearns, appeared to have lost in a shocker.

Mica, the chairman of the House transportation committee and a 19-year incumbent, beat the freshman Adams after tea party groups declined to take an active role on her behalf.

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Connecticut and the pitiful death knell of the GOP moderate

Connecticut and the pitiful death knell of the GOP moderate

Updated at 9:39 a.m.

Moderate GOP Senate candidates have been taking a beating the last two election cycles.

And nowhere is that more the case than in Connecticut.

The 2010 and 2012 elections both featured open Senate seats in the Nutmeg State. In both elections, respected and moderate former GOP congressmen — the kind of candidates Republicans arguably need in a blue-leaning state — stepped forward.

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Primary day: Five things you need to know in Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin

Voters head to the polls in four states today, with Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin holding congressional primaries.


Connecticut House Speaker and Democratic congressional candidate Chris Donovan is favored to win his primary today despite the arrests of two top aides. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)
As usual, The Fix has zeroed in on five things to watch as the results roll in tonight:

1. The most expensive congressional primary in the country

That would be Connecticut’s 5th district, where seven candidates have raised at least $600,000 and five have raised more than $1 million. A total of nearly $10 million has already been raised just to decide each party’s nominee.

The most interesting subplot is on the Democratic side, where state House Speaker Chris Donovan remains the favorite despite the fact that his campaign manager and top fundraiser have both been arrested and charged with corruption. Organized labor and progressive groups remain firmly behind Donovan, who has not been implicated in the wrongdoing and has won the state party’s endorsement as well.

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Hawaii Senate primary: Which poll to believe?

Hawaii Senate primary: Which poll to believe?

The matchup for Hawaii’s open Senate seat will officially be set Saturday, when the state holds its Democratic Senate primary.

And depending on which poll you believe, it’s either going to be a barn-burner or a blowout.

Former congressman Ed Case is challenging Rep. Mazie Hirono for the right to face Republican former governor Linda Lingle in the general election, and he’s long been the underdog. Hirono had the unofficial backing of the national Democratic Party, raised tons more money than Case did, leans further left than Case does, and according to some polls, she carries a double-digit lead into Saturday’s election.

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Primary day: Five things watch for in Missouri, Michigan and Washington

Voters head to the polls in four states today, with Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington state all holding their primaries.

On the ballot: Missouri Republicans could nominate a less-than-desirable Senate candidate, we’ll get a preview of the open Washington governor’s race thanks to that state’s blanket primary and in Detroit we could see a white congressman win a majority-black district today for just the second time.

Here are five things to watch for:

1. The Akin effect

Will Democrats get their man in Missouri’s Republican primary?
Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) announces his candidacy for the Senate in Creve Coeur, Mo.(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

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North Carolina runoff highlights GOP efforts to beat back outsider candidates

Tonight’s runoff in North Carolina’s 8th district features arguably the most contentious insider-versus-outsider House fight of the campaign to date. And the race says a lot about how the Republican party establishment has evolved in its effort to beat back tea party challenges.

Two years ago, dentist Scott Keadle would have been a favorite to beat former congressional aide Richard Hudson in tonight’s runoff for the right to face Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.). Keadle, after all, has the Club for Growth behind him, and Hudson is easily tied to an unpopular Washington.

Today, the tea party enthusiasm that swept people like Keadle into office (and past establishment favorites like Hudson in the primaries) has dissipated considerably.

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GOP Senate primaries see businessmen making real strides

Senate Republicans’ slate of candidates this November could have a significant business flavor.

Self-funded businessmen are surging in three key GOP primaries right now in Arizona, Missouri and Wisconsin, and all three appear to have a good shot next month of beating better-known Republicans who have held high-level elected offices.


St. Louis area manufacturing executive John Brunner meets with supporters after announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate, Oct. 3, 2011, in St. Charles, Mo. Brunner is one of a few Republican businessmen who could win their party’s Senate nomination this fall. (Jeff Roberson — Associated Press)

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Charlie Rangel wins (again)

New York state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D) conceded to Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) for the second time on Monday, bringing an end to a two-week-old drama over Rangel’s primary win.

A final count of the votes over the weekend showed Rangel leading Espaillat by 990 votes — more than 2 percent of votes cast in the Democratic primary and well outside the margin for a recount.
Congressman Charles Rangel arrives to supporters at his campaign headquarters after polls have closed in his race for the Democratic primary challenge in New York's 15th congressional district on June 26, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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Rangel opponent files for re-vote in increasingly tight primary

What at one point looked like a big primary night victory for Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) has gradually become a close race — enough so that Rangel’s opponent is now filing for a possible do-over election.

State Sen. Adriano Espaillat this week filed with the state Supreme Court seeking either a recount or a highly unusual redo of his June 26 primary with Rangel. Espaillat has lodged accusations of voter suppression and has pointed to faulty administration and vote-counting by New York City elections officials.


Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., salutes surviving members of the Montford Point Marines, during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 27, 2012. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais — Associated Press)

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Primary day: Five things to watch for

Voters in Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah head to the polls today for primaries and primary runoffs.

Though no major Senate contests are on the ballot in these states, there are still plenty of interesting subplots. Here are five that are worth watching.

1. More incumbents going down?

Tuesday’s primaries could see yet more incumbents falling in newly drawn districts. The most likely victims would appear to be Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and John Sullivan (R-Okla.).

Rangel is, of course, the big one. After 42 years in Congress, the former Ways and Means Committee chairman is in perhaps his toughest race yet against a field that includes state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who would be Congress’s first Dominican-American member. (For more, see Paul Kane’s great piece today.)
Representative Charles B. Rangel in Washington, D.C., on June 20. (Marvin Joseph, The Washington Post)

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Anti-incumbent super PAC’s funds dry up

A super PAC that made a big splash by helping take down a few House incumbents this primary season has scaled back its involvement in recent weeks thanks to a cash shortfall.


Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) speaks about the New York Police Department's stop and frisk policy earlier this month. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
After spending $2.7 million on a plethora of primaries over the last four months, the Campaign for Primary Accountability has failed to replenish those funds and had just $227,000 cash on hand at the end of May.

And with still nearly half of congressional primaries to come — including some inviting targets in Tuesday’s primaries — it doesn’t appear the super PAC will be able to take advantage of some solid opportunities to unseat other incumbents in the weeks ahead.

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Cynthia Dill and Charlie Summers to face Angus King in Maine Senate race

Updated at 11:49 p.m.

The two major parties chose their candidates for Maine’s open Senate seat, but in this unusual race, both will face an uphill battle against popular former governor Angus King, an independent.

State Sen. Cynthia Dill beat former Maine secretary of state Matthew Dunlap and two other candidates in the Democratic primary. She ran as a progressive Democrat fighting Gov. Paul LePage (R).

On the GOP side, current Secretary of State Charles Summers beat out state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and four others. Poliquin ran to the right of Summers and lost despite outraising his rival and getting help from the outside group FreedomWorks.

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Special election and primary day: 5 things to watch

It’s primary day — again!

Voters in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and Virginia are heading to the primary polls as we speak, while Arizona voters will pick a replacement for former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D) and Arkansas voters will vote in a runoff.

With so many races on the ballot, here are five things to keep an eye on...

1. Arizona special election: What’s the margin?

Republicans are quietly expressing pessimism about the Giffords race, where GOP nominee Jesse Kelly has had some troubles trying to win a Republican-leaning district. But even if he loses, the margin matters.

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California primary results: GOP catches a ‘top-two’ break

California primary results: GOP catches a ‘top-two’ break

House Republicans got a big break under California’s new primary system Tuesday, after Democrats failed to get a candidate into the general election for Rep. Gary Miller’s (R-Calif.) swing district.

Miller himself still faces a tough race against GOP state Sen. Bob Dutton, but the quirks of the new “top-two” system mean Democrats now have no chance at the district, which had been rated as a toss-up by some handicappers.

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Rick Hill wins Montana GOP governor nod

Former congressman Rick Hill won the Montana Republican governor primary on Tuesday and will face state Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) in the race to succeed outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D).

Hill emerged from a crowded field with 34 percent of the vote. His nearest competition was at 18 percent.
Republican governor candidate Rick Hill smiles as he walks through a crowd of his supporters Tuesday night in the Red Lion Hotel in Helena. (AP Photo/Dylan Brown, Independent Record)

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California’s new political reality, explained

It’s a brave new world for Californians headed to vote in the state’s primary today.

Among the changes: There are no party primaries, they can send two members of the same political party on to the general election and many people will be voting in revamped congressional districts crafted by a panel of fellow citizens.

Former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was the architect of all of these changes, which he proudly previewed in a Facebook post Monday.
Austrian born actor and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger conducts a local music band upon his arrival in Guessing in the province of Burgenland, Austria, on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

“California will make history tomorrow,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “We will see our open primary system and new citizen-drawn districts in action for the first time. There is nothing else like it and I know we are starting yet another national trend.”

But just how does it work? And how different is it?

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Wisconsin recall and primary day: Five things to watch

Wisconsin is just one of six states holding elections Tuesday, as voters in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota also head to the polls.

Nothing in those other states will approach the importance of what’s happening with the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) — or even come close, really — but there are some interesting subplots to keep an eye on.

Below, we explore five of them.

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Incumbent primary losses begin to mount, may approach record

We may see a record number of congressional incumbents lose their primaries this year. If we do, it’s likely to have more to do with redistricting than a wave of so-called “anti-incumbent” sentiment.

The highest number of incumbents who have lost their primaries over the past 50 years is the 20 who fell in a post-redistricting cycle in 1992. That included 19 House members and one senator.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence until 2011. He lost his primary Tuesday. (Kevin Clark/The Washington Post)

With Rep. Silvestre Reyes’s (D-Tex.) loss Tuesday, we are now guaranteed to see 15 incumbents lose primaries in this post-redistricting cycle. Four have lost to non-incumbent challengers, and 11 more face or have faced primary matchups with other incumbents, assuring that one incumbent will fall.

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Three questions in the Arkansas and Kentucky primaries

Republicans and Democrats will pick their nominees for a pair of open seats in Arkansas and Kentucky on Tuesday, while Democrats choose their candidate against targeted freshman Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.).

The trio of House primaries highlight what is otherwise a pretty sleepy primary day in which President Obama’s performance in the Arkansas primary will likely be the most intriguing storyline

For those watching the battle for the House — political nerds unite! -- below are the three key questions that will be answered as tonight’s results roll in.

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Barack Obama’s Arkansas primary problem

Barack Obama’s Arkansas primary problem

Two weeks after an imprisoned felon received 41 percent of the vote against President Obama in West Virginia’s presidential primary, Arkansas could provide another potential embarrassment for the incumbent.

That’s because only Obama and John Wolfe, a Tennessee lawyer, are on the Democratic presidential primary ballot in the Razorback State. (Wolfe took 12 percent — and nearly 18,000 votes — in a four-way fight in the Louisiana Democratic presidential primary in late March.) And a recent independent poll showed Obama running just seven points ahead of Wolfe in the southern Arkansas 4th district, which covers one-quarter of the state.

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A ‘mama grizzly’ upset is possible in Nebraska

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) has been the favorite from the start to succeed retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), but his hold on that mantle has always been tenuous.

First, state Treasurer Don Stenberg nabbed the backing of the influential Club for Growth and Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund. Then, former senator Bob Kerrey got in the race and gave Democrats a fighting chance.


FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2012 file photo, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP candidate for vice-president in 2008, speaks in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

But with just five days until the GOP primary, neither Stenberg nor Kerrey is looking like Bruning’s biggest obstacle. Instead, the until-now-dark-horse candidate in the race, state Sen. Deb Fischer, has asserted herself and — according to politicos in Nebraska — has a fighting chance to usurp Bruning on Tuesday.

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Sen. Richard Lugar loses primary to Richard Mourdock

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) lost his primary on Tuesday, becoming the latest Republican to fall victim to a tea party-fueled opponent.

Results early Tuesday night showed state Treasurer Richard Mourdock leading the six-term senator 61 percent to 39 percent with 40 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press has called the race for Mourdock.

Mourdock now becomes the GOP standard-bearer in a state where Republicans have a built-in advantage. But his nomination also opens the door a crack to Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat whose chances improve now that he doesn’t have to face the more moderate longtime incumbent.

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Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia primaries: What to watch for

Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar’s likely demise and the gubernatorial recall primary in Wisconsin aren’t the only two races worth watching tonight. There are also some key House, Senate and governor primaries in Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Two of those states — Indiana and North Carolina — represent relatively rare opportunities for the House Republicans to play some offense this year.

In addition, North Carolina Democrats will pick their gubernatorial nominee in the marquee governor’s race of 2012 (after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election, that is), and West Virginia will hold its governor, Senate and congressional primaries.

There are lots of moving parts; that’s where we come in. Here’s a cheat sheet of what you need to know, state by state and race by race. Impress your friends! Vanquish your enemies!

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Dick Lugar is going to lose. Did he have to?

Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar will almost certainly lose his bid for a seventh term Tuesday at the hands of state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

On that point, almost everyone in the Republican party agrees. (Polling backs up that idea; a bipartisan survey released late last week showed Mourdock with a 10-point lead on the incumbent.)

There is considerably more disagreement about whether Lugar’s loss was inevitable or whether he could have avoided the fate almost certainly headed his way today. And both arguments have some merit.

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Dick Lugar and the biggest primary upsets in Senate history

If the polls are to be believed, Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar will likely join some very rare company on Tuesday, becoming just the seventh senator in 30 years to lose his party’s nomination for reelection.

And Lugar’s tenure in the Senate — 36 years — would make it one of the more notable upsets in Senate history.

But where would it rank in the list of all-time upsets? Below, we rank the biggest primary upsets of an incumbent senator since 1950, including a potential loss by Lugar.

(Side note: Overall, about three dozen senators who have lost primaries over that span, with the vast majority of them occurring in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.)

Did we miss any? Oversell any? The comments section awaits.

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Tuesday’s primaries: What to watch for

It’s primary day (again!).

And just because Rick Santorum dropped out of the GOP presidential race doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of interesting subplots.

Below, we take a look at what you should watch for as results roll in from presidential primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, along with the regular state primary in the Keystone State.

And be sure to stay tuned to The Fix for all the big results Tuesday night.

Does Gingrich drop out?

Maybe the biggest subplot in the presidential race Tuesday night: Keep an eye on the vote in Delaware, the state Newt Gingrich has focused heavily on in the runup to Tuesday’s contests. He suggested to NBC News on Monday that a poor result there might lead him to drop out.


Gingrich arrives at a campaign stop in Buffalo, N.Y., on April 20. (David Duprey — Associated Press)

“I think we need to take a deep look at what we are doing,” Gingrich said. “We will be in North Carolina tomorrow night, and we will look and see what the results are.”

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The next Jean Schmidt? The top 10 House incumbents who could lose their primaries

Even in the most anti-incumbent primary season of the past few decades, less than 5 percent of members of Congress lost their primaries.

Such is the case under a political system that weighs things heavily in favor of incumbents.
Rep. Jean Schmidt is sworn in in January 2011. (Susan Walsh/AP)

But relatively speaking, this looks like one of the most anti-incumbent years in decades. There are several factors in the coming election that will lead to an increase in the number of members sent home early — and it’s quite possible we could see more incumbents lose than at any point in the last 40 years.

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Club for Growth launches ad against Dick Lugar

The Club for Growth is up with its first television ad against Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar in what appears to be an increasingly perilous primary campaign for the longtime incumbent.

The fiscally conservative Club, whose political action committee endorsed state Treasurer Richard Mourdock back in February, is launching what is technically an issue ad that hits Lugar for his three-plus decades in Congress, as well as his votes on tax issues, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout and the “Bridge to Nowhere” earmark.

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Republican primary turnout rebounds, is up overall

Reports of the GOP’s turnout problems appear to have been slightly premature.

A Fix review of turnout in the Republican presidential nominating process shows that it has rebounded in recent weeks, and GOP voters are now turning out in consistently higher numbers than they did in 2008.

In addition, in the most competitive Republican contests held this year, turnout is up almost universally, with just a couple exceptions.

Turnout is up in all four states that have held major contests since Super Tuesday — Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Illinois — and is up overall in eight of 12 contests held this month for which there was a comparable contest held four years ago.

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Rep. Kinzinger beats Rep. Manzullo in Illinois

Updated at 12:05 a.m.

Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) beat longtime Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.) in their primary Tuesday.

Kinzinger led 56 percent to 44 percent in the state’s newly drawn 16th district, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. AP has called the race in Kinzinger’s favor.

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2012 is definitely an anti-incumbent year

No House incumbents lost their primaries on Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean their colleagues should rest easy.

In fact, the results of Tuesday’s primaries suggest that incumbents face an environment even tougher than they did in 2010, when four House members lost their primaries and three senators lost re-nomination.

If Tuesday is any indication, that number could rise significantly this year — particularly in the House.

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House incumbents face another test in Tuesday’s primary

Is 2012 another anti-incumbent year?

We should get a good indication Tuesday, when a couple more House incumbents face primaries funded by the Campaign for Primary Accountability, the group that helped unseat Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) in last week’s primary.

Here are five House incumbents facing some real primaries tomorrow. All are favorites, but as was the case in Ohio, anything can happen.

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Ethics decision looms for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. as racial politics highlight primary challenge

Congressional map-drawers in states across the country are struggling to maintain majority-black congressional districts as African Americans move out of urban areas. And now, it appears plausible that one of those new districts could be won by a non-black candidate.


Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is seen during the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington in October. (By Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press)

Former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) is trying to do what few before her have accomplished: win a majority-black district as a non-black candidate. She faces an ethically wounded Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) in a primary in a district that has been stretched from the South Side of Chicago far out into the Cook County suburbs and Will County, which Halvorson represented for one term before losing in 2010.

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Tea party challengers set their sights on House incumbents

Tea party challengers set their sights on House incumbents

Emboldened by a number of victories over incumbents and establishment-backed candidates last cycle, Republican candidates across the country have set their sights on defeating GOP incumbents in 2012 primaries.

It’s way too early to tell how serious many of these candidates will turn out to be, and the vast majority of such primary challenges fizzle due to inability to raise money and a lack of political acumen.

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