Winners and losers from the May 6 primaries

The first major primary day/night of the 2014 calendar is in the books — with North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana all holding votes Tuesday.


Thom Tillis speaks to supporters at an election night rally in Charlotte, N.C., after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate on May 6, 2014.  (Chuck Burton/AP)

While there were few surprises in any of the three states — if this was the NCAA tournament, then Tuesday was when chalk held — there were, as always, winners and losers. Here are our picks.

WINNERS

* National Republican Senatorial Committee: After two straight cycles in which the party committee watched as GOP voters chose unelectable nominees for Senate, the first big vote of the 2014 primary season produced the perfect result for the NRSC.  Not only did North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis win, but he did so without a prolonged — and costly — runoff and without taking too much incoming from his fellow Republican candidates. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's quick endorsement of Tillis — he had endorsed Greg Brannon in the primary — in the wake of the result seemed a sign that party unity would be an easy thing to achieve. Said one senior strategist allied with the NRSC: "We put Tillis on the radar screen for donors nationally and with the groups that came in to endorse.  We featured him with other top tier candidates at New York, DC and other national fundraising events."

* American Crossroads: Remember how much negative publicity the likes of Karl Rove got when they announced the Conservative Victory Project, an effort to ensure that the most electable Republican emerged from contested primary races? Well, rather than actively pursue that new group, Rove and company decided to save themselves some time and just use the pre-existing American Crossroads super PAC to help Tillis get over the finish line. Crossroads spent more than $1.6 million on ads in the final weeks of the race. And it worked. You can expect more Crossroads spending in future contested Republican primaries.

* Incumbents: Every House incumbent who sought renomination in all three states won.  That includes people like Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio) who beat back serious primary challenges, evidence that for all of the dislike aimed at people serving in Congress, it's still very hard to beat a sitting member of Congress who is not currently engulfed in some sort of scandal.

* John Boehner: It doesn't solve all  — or really any — of his problems with his own party back in Washington, but it had to feel good for Boehner to win a primary fight convincingly Tuesday.

* American Idol: It's been a bad few years for the singing show — "The Voice" has just eaten its lunch — but at least former Idol-er Clay Aiken looks to have won his primary for the Democratic nomination in North Carolina's 2nd district. The bad news? Aiken's victory probably won't mean much; the 2nd is a comfortably Republican district where Mitt Romney won 58 percent in 2012.

LOSERS

* Kay Hagan: Look, the North Carolina senator is running a serious and credible campaign, and most polling puts her tied or slightly ahead of Tillis. But make no mistake: What happened Tuesday night was a worst-case scenario for Hagan. Tillis, the strongest Republican nominee in a general election, won — and won without a runoff. That means Tillis and national Republicans can spend the next six months spending all of their money and time hitting Hagan.  Given the swing nature of the state and the fact that the national environment looks something short of favorable for Democrats at the moment, Hagan probably needs a break or two to go her way to win. She didn't get one last night.

* North Carolina Board of Elections: Roughly an hour after polls closed in the Tarheel State, the board of elections reported results for 56 percent of precincts. Then they changed it to 26 percent. Whoops! The head of the board apologized for the error. But  if you run the state board of elections, you really only have two big days: the primary and the general election. It shouldn't be that tough to get both of them right, right?

* Rand Paul: The Kentucky senator spent Monday in North Carolina touting the candidacy of Greg Brannon, who, 24 hours later, finished a distant second to Tillis. Now, Paul was aware of the polling in the race and likely was under no illusion that Brannon was going to be an also-ran when he made the decision to go to the Tarheel State.  While it's not this simple (politics rarely is), Paul's involvement with Brannon allows the "establishment Republican beats libertarian Republican" storyline to be told — and that does the Kentucky senator no favors when he runs in 2016.  Worth noting: Paul may not really care whether or not Brannon won.  North Carolina is moving its presidential primary way up in 2016, and by campaigning for the libertarian favorite, Paul affirmed to those sorts of voters that he is their guy come the next presidential vote.


North Carolina Republican Senate hopeful Greg Brannon, left, is introduced by Sen. Paul Rand (R-Ky) during a campaign event in Charlotte, N.C., on May 5, 2014. (Chuck Burton/AP)

* Voter turnout: Just 16 percent of registered voters in North Carolina turned out to vote on Tuesday. Ditto Ohio. In Indiana, no hard turnout numbers were available Wednesday morning, but reporting on the ground suggests that it was very light.  People love to complain about how bad government — and the people in it — are.  And yet, when given the chance, they don't turn out to vote. We say again: You get the government you deserve.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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