Rep. Todd Akin won the Republican nomination to face Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Tuesday, emerging from a tight three-way race to face the most vulnerable senator in the country.

Results Tuesday night showed Akin leading the pack at 36 percent with 74 percent of precincts in. Businessman John Brunner followed at 30 percent, and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman was at 29 percent. The AP has called the race for Akin.

Akin will now face McCaskill, who Republicans see as ripe for defeat in an increasingly conservative state, and whose seat they are counting on to help them win the majority.

Akin’s win will hearten national Democrats, who have taken the unusual step of interverning in the GOP pirmary to elevate the congressman, whom they viewed as the GOP’s weakest potential nominee of the three major candidates.

McCaskill, national Democrats and a Democratic super PAC spent around $1.7 million in the GOP primary on ads attacking Brunner and Steelman. Another ad, while ostensibly trying to marginalize Akin, likely helped him in the primary by playing up his conservatism and endorsements from Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann.

None of the GOP contenders was considered a top-tier recruit, though. Steelman struggled to raise money for her campaign and has relied on self-funding and a super PAC supporting her campaign. She also got the late backing of Sarah Palin, who came to Missouri for an event. Brunner, meanwhile, is a political newcomer who entered the race when it appeared to be a wide-open contest and soon self-funded his way to frontrunner status.

Republicans argue that it matters little who their nominee is, given the environmental hurdles facing McCaskill. A recent independent Mason-Dixon poll showed all comers leading McCaskill by between five and 11 points. Brunner led by the most, while Akin’s lead was the smallest.

In the other Senate action Tuesday night, former congressman Pete Hoekstra defeated businessman Clark Durant in another competitive GOP primary in Michigan.

Durant got some tea party and conservative backing in the race, but in a lower-tier contest, was never able to get much traction against the better-known Hoekstra. Hoekstra was winning by around 20 points throughout much of the night.

Hoekstra’s path to victory, though, remains tough, with a recent EPIC-MRA poll showing him trailing Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) by 14 points.