wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Wisconsin recall and primary day: Five things to watch

at 10:43 AM ET, 06/05/2012

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.

1. Montana beef

(Polls close: 10 p.m. Eastern)

Republicans will pick their nominee in the open Montana governor’s race Tuesday, with the winner facing state Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) in the race to succeed outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D). And besides Walker’s recall, this is really the only other statewide race of any national significance Tuesday.

The favorite is former congressman Rick Hill, but we haven’t had a public poll here since April, and Hill has been getting knocked around a bit over the last few weeks.

This is a red state, but this race is going to start out among the most competitive in the country.

2. Upheaval in California?

(Polls close: 11 p.m. Eastern)

Tuesday’s election is both the first election after the state’s citizen-driven redistricting process and the first election under the state’s new primary system, which sends the top two vote-getters to the general election regardless of party.

Both of those things have thrown a wrench in what was previously the most successfully gerrymandered and safe congressional delegation in the country (only one of 53 seats switched parties over the last decade), which just happens to comprise nearly one-eighth of the membership of the U.S. House.

That starts changing Tuesday, with several members thrown into newly competitive districts or taking on lots of new constituents. We’re not expecting incumbents to fail to make the general election, but some could finish second and have lots of work to do this fall.

Expect some surprises.

3. Downballot in Wisconsin

(Polls close: 9 p.m. Eastern)

Some are forgetting that Walker’s recall isn’t the only important race on the ballot in Wisconsin Tuesday. In fact, control over the state Senate is very much at stake.

As The Fix’s Rachel Weiner reported Monday, Democrats only need to win one of four recall races in GOP-held districts. And they are particularly keen on defeating Republican state Sens. Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard.

Now, if Democrats lose the governor’s race but retake the Senate, it won’t be seen as an overall victory for them, but maybe it should; after all, they would have control over one of the three cogs in the governing process and could prevent any future legislative gambits by the Republicans.

Oh, and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) also faces a recall.

4. Clinton vs. Obama

A number of primaries Tuesday will pit President Obama against his fundraising buddy (and off-message surrogate) Bill Clinton.


President Bill Clinton joins Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and his wife Elsie for a rally Friday at Kennedy High School in Paterson, N.J. (Tyson Trish — AP /The Record of Bergen County)

Tops would obviously be the race between Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), with Clinton backing Pascrell and Obama taking the unusual step of backing Rothman late last week. This is probably the marquee congressional race of the day, by virtue of the national involvement and the fact that the race is taking place right outside New York City. (Polls close: 8 p.m. Eastern)

But also keep an eye on New Mexico, where Clinton-backed former Albuquerque mayor Marty Chavez (D) has struggled in the race for Senate candidate Rep. Martin Heinrich’s (D-N.M.) seat. Progressive favorite state Sen. Eric Griego and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham appear to be the favorites for the Democratic nomination there. (Polls close: 9 p.m. Eastern)

And then there’s the Sherman-Berman race, where Clinton is backing Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) over Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who supported Obama in 2008 and got to appear with the president during a California fundraising swing recently. But that race isn’t going to be over Tuesday, with California’s new top-two primary system likely to send them to a one-on-one general election in November.

5. Wilson and Heinrich

Both Heinrich and former congresswoman Heather Wilson (R) are expected to easily win their respective primaries in the New Mexico Senate race Tuesday, but their performances (and turnout) could give some clues about their matchup in November.

Heinrich has done a good job of avoiding a real rough-and-tumble race with state Auditor Hector Balderas, but we’ll see how much of the vote Balderas can pull. Wilson, meanwhile, may cede some votes to businessman Greg Sowards.

Sowards’s performance, in particular, will be instructive. He ran a very meagerly funded effort and at one point fired all his campaign staff, but Wilson has a reputation as a moderate. If she wins in a blowout, it’s a sign that the conservative base is behind her.

 
Read what others are saying