It’s primary day in eight states today, with voters heading to the polls in Alabama, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, Iowa, Montana and California. The biggest spotlight is on Mississippi, where Republican Sen. Thad Cochran is being challenged by tea party candidate Chris McDaniel, and Iowa, where state Sen. Joni Ernst is poised to finish first in Tuesday’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Check here for the latest results and analysis for all eight states.
Zero precincts reporting from Covington County. An election commissioner just told me she’s home in bed & can’t give us numbers. #MSSen— Emily Wagster Pettus (@EWagsterPettus) June 4, 2014
The Senate GOP primary in Iowa didn’t go to a convention, but we could see something tonight that we have seen just once in a half-century: a congressional race going to a convention.
In the GOP primary for the swing 3rd district, no candidate is currently above 30 percent. If nobody gets to 35 percent, which seems likely, a convention would choose the nominee for the first time in Iowa since 2002 and just the second time since 1964.
With 72 percent of precincts reporting, state Sen. Brad Zaun is at 29 percent, followed by Mike Huckabee-backed Robert Cramer at 22 percent and Secretary of State Matt Schultz at 19 percent.
Of course, the vote totals don’t mean much if it goes to convention.
The Democratic nominee is former state Sen. Staci Appel.
The last congressional race to go to convention in Iowa was when now-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was nominated in 2002.
In the other race where this was possible Tuesday, Democratic state Rep. Pat Murphy won the nomination for Braley’s seat. He’s at 36 percent — just above 35 — with 92 percent of precincts reporting, and AP has called the race for him. He’s favored to win in a Democratic-leaning district.
The long-running clash between the tea party insurgency and the Republican establishment came to a dramatic head in Mississippi on Tuesday when Sen. Thad Cochran faced off against Chris McDaniel at the polls after a nasty and expensive primary battle. Incomplete returns showed a race that was too close to call.
Cochran went into the contest at risk of becoming the first U.S. senator to be toppled this year. With 92.4 percent of precincts reporting, barely one percentage point separated the top contenders. McDaniel had a slight lead, but both were under 50 percent, which would mean a runoff in three weeks if those results hold up.
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) will not be the second incumbent congressman to lose tonight, but he’s still fighting to avoid a runoff.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Palazzo leads party-switching former congressman Gene Taylor, whom he beat as a Democrat in 2010. The current count is 50.2 percent for Palazzo to 43.3 percent for Taylor.
If Palazzo stays above 50 percent, he’s got the nomination. If not, he faces a three-week runoff against the former congressman.
How familiar are you with the record of Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.)? Not very? Well, that’s probably in large part because he’s been in office for less than four months. (He was appointed to replace Max Baucus, who became ambassador to China.)
The good news for Walsh is that he just won the Democratic primary in Montana for the November general election, setting him up to actually be elected to the position.
The bad news for Walsh is that Steve Daines won the Republican primary. Daines is currently the state’s sole representative in the House of Representatives, and leads Walsh by a wide margin in (admittedly somewhat old) polling. (He also won tonight with a much larger margin than Walsh, though that doesn’t mean much.) The race is another that would be a pickup for the Republican Party nationally should Daines win.
With Daines not running for reelection in the House, the state’s sole congressional district is wide open. Neither of the party primaries for that race have been determined as of this writing.
The likely newest addition to the 42-year-long list of unsuccessful New Jersey Republican Senate candidates was determined tonight. After an agonizing back-and-forth, the Associated Press called the state’s GOP primary for former Reagan speechwriter Jeff Bell. (Cory Booker was uncontested on the Democratic side.)
Amazingly, Bell is one of the 14 Republicans that were defeated in that 42-year period. In 1978 — when Booker was nine — Bell lost to Bill Bradley by a wide margin.
Lots of things can happen between now and November; nothing in politics is set in stone. But given Booker’s wide margin in the state’s special Senate election last year (and predictions from experts handing him a likely win), it seems unlikely that a miracle will happen. Which is kind of the thing with miracles.
State Sen. Joni Ernst (R) has won the GOP Senate primary in Iowa, easily avoiding a potential convention vote to determine the party’s nominee.
She’s at 53 percent with 22 percent of precincts reporting — well above the 35 percent she needs to win outright tonight. Her nearest competitor, Sam Clovis, is at 18 percent.
AP has called the race for Ernst.
Ernst surged late in the race and got both establishment and tea party support, moving past the erstwhile GOP frontrunner, businessman Mark Jacobs. Ernst was backed by both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin.
In the general election, Ernst gets Rep. Bruce Braley (D). Braley, as we’ve noted, begins as the slight frontrunner. This is a second-tier GOP target, but still one very much worth watching.
Ernst made a name for herself in the GOP primary with an ad in which she used the metaphor of castrating hogs to suggest her approach to spending if she heads to Washington.
The other major Senate matchup of the night is now counting votes after Iowa closed its polls at 10 p.m. EDT.
The big question here, of course, is whether state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) gets to 35 percent in her primary. If she does, she wins. If she doesn’t, a party convention decides the nominee, and who knows what happens.
Waiting in the general election is Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), who is considered the favorite.
Of course, Iowa is a swing state, and Braley hardly looks bulletproof early on. Republicans feel like Ernst could turn this into a close race rather quickly.
New Jersey’s Steve Lonegan, last seen lying in a crumpled heap beside the path Cory Booker took to the United States Senate, has lost his bid for the Republican nomination for the state’s 3rd congressional district. Lonegan, who lost to Booker in last year’s special Senate election, was defeated by Tom MacArthur, a businessman and local elected official who had establishment support over the conservative Lonegan.
The district is currently represented by Republican Rep. Jon Runyan, who announced last year that he would not seek reelection. Runyan had harsh words for the Republicans seeking to replace him, at one point calling the contest “ugly as Hell.”
MacArthur will face Democrat Aimee Belgard, who won her party’s nomination by a much-wider margin. Belgard also holds local office. Unlike most of this fall’s House races, this is expected to be a contest. Real Clear Politics lists it as “leans GOP,” but others call it a toss-up and Democrats hope it will be an opportunity to gain a seat.
Lonegan, however, will have to sit it out. After his last 12 months, though, that will probably be something of a relief.
The two races of note in Mississippi are both very, very close.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) took a brief lead over Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), but Cochran is back up 50-49 with 32 percent of precincts reporting.
In the 4th district, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.) leads party-switching former Rep. Gene Taylor (R-Miss.) by less than 100 votes with 26 percent in.
It’s still very early in both races, but both look very tight and would be headed for runoffs as it stands.