Winners and losers from the May 20 ‘Super Tuesday’ primaries

Six states voted in primary elections on Tuesday, the biggest single day of voting before the November midterm elections.


Matt Bevin, loser. REUTERS/John Sommers II

With so many races and candidates -- not to mention outside groups  -- at play, there were any number of winners and losers from the night that was. My take on the bests and worsts is below. As always I tried to go beyond the totally obvious winners and losers to bring you, gentle reader, a deeper dig into the results.

WINNERS

* National Republican Senatorial Committee: It's been a very good May for the NRSC. First, North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis, widely seen as the most electable GOP candidate against Sen. Kay Hagan (D), won the nomination without a runoff on May 6. Then, Tuesday night, Mitch McConnell easily dispatched a tea party challenge in Kentucky and, perhaps even more important to the GOP's chances of winning back the Senate, the two most electable Republicans -- businessman David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston -- advanced to a runoff in Georgia. In Oregon, the NRSC got its preferred candidate as well in pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby -- although she had to weather a bruising primary and remains a long shot in the Democratic-leaning state against Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) this fall. Still, the NRSC has not only survived but thrived in the primary season so far. That's a far cry from where the committee stood in 2010 and 2012.

* Chamber of Commerce: The Chamber spent to help McConnell and Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson in their primary fights against tea party challengers, and threw its backing behind Kingston in Georgia. Three for three ain't too bad. The Chamber's willingness to wade into contested races to combat the tea party has been a major success so far this year -- it was also behind Tillis to the tune of $1 million  -- and a major part of the reason that more establishment Republicans have been winning primaries.

* Mitch McConnell: The guy just wins races. As we documented last night, McConnell understood the threat that Matt Bevin posed to him and never let his foot off the gas pedal. Now, his victory doesn't change the fact that he faces the toughest race of his life this fall -- more on that in this space later -- but McConnell deserves credit for taking a potentially competitive primary and turning it into a laugher.

 

* Saul Shorr/Anna Greenberg: The media consultant and pollster, respectively, behind businessman Tom Wolf's successful campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Pennsylvania, Shorr and Greenberg steered a first-time candidate to victory. Yes, Wolf spent $10 million of his own money -- making him the financial heavyweight in the Democratic primary. But if big spending meant victory, Meg Whitman would be the governor of California right now. Wolf's massive win -- he took almost 60 percent of the vote in a legitimate four-way field -- is remarkable and owes no small amount of credit to the way Shorr and Greenberg positioned him.

LOSERS

* Tea party: It's not just that tea party candidates are losing, it's how they're losing. Bevin, who once looked like a credible candidate, wound up in the final days of the race fending off charges of attending a cockfight. Bryan Smith in Idaho ran such a poor campaign that the Club For Growth decided to walk away from it rather than throw more good money after bad. Neither Phil Gingrey or Paul Broun, two tea party favorites, came anywhere close to contention in the Georgia Senate primary. And, although his challenge to Sen. Thad Cochran (R) still seems competitive, state Sen. Chris McDaniel is in the midst of one of the nastiest stories we have ever seen in Mississippi politics (or anywhere). These candidacies are not slowly disappearing into nothing; they are exploding like the death of a star.

* Allyson Schwartz: The Philly-area congresswoman entered the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary as the clear front-runner to be the Democratic nominee and, given where Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's polling numbers stand, the odds-on favorite to be the next governor. And then, nothing. Wolf went on TV early with ads painting himself as an outsider -- a terrific message in this sort of political climate. By the time Schwartz realized the problem she had, it was way too late. Her last-minute campaigning -- read this terrific Colby Itkowitz story on it -- seemed desperate and misguided.  The fact that she won just 17.6 percent of the vote is stunning given where she started in the contest.

* Former members of Congress: Marjorie Margolies didn't really come close to winning back her old seat (although it wasn't actually much of her old seat) in Philadelphia. Mark Critz, who represented southwestern Pennsylvania in Congress, placed a distant second in the race for lieutenant governor. Proof, yet again, that having "Washington" on your resume is bad news these days. It wasn't all bad news for former members -- Bob Barr made the runoff in Georgia's 11th District and Mike Ross easily dispatched a nominal primary challenge to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination for governor.

* Endorsements: There's a lot of hubbub -- is that even a thing anymore -- over the fact that Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law (Margolies's son is married to her) lost despite an endorsement from Hillary Clinton. So, why isn't Clinton a loser in our assessment? Because the idea that a single endorsement -- even from Clinton --moves (or should move) any substantial number of voters is simply misguided. Endorsements, generally speaking, are vastly overrated -- whether Clinton or anyone else is doing the endorsing.

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