Primary night: Good for Democrats?
posted at 10:41 am on August 8, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
Primaries held in four states delivered good news for Democrats, according to National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar. Even in Missouri, where Senator Claire McCaskill trailed all three of her potential Republican challengers in head-to-head polls, Democrats got the GOP opponent they wanted:
Last night’s primaries in Michigan, Missouri, Washington state and Kansas couldn’t have gone much better for Democrats.
The party saw Republicans nominate their weakest candidate against Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who spent her own campaign money in order to affect the outcome of the primary. They saw Republicans tap a reindeer-farming Santa Claus with controversial views to run for the suburban Detroit seat recently held by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich. And in a promising gubernatorial pickup opportunity for the GOP in Washington state, the first round of balloting showed Democrats still hold some fundamental advantages in a traditionally Democratic state.
The biggest news came out of Missouri, where GOP Rep. Todd Akin came from behind against self-funded businessman John Brunner and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, two candidates who Republican party officials viewed as more formidable challengers against McCaskill. Akin, as a longtime member of Congress and ardent social conservative, holds vulnerabilities that McCaskill is hoping to exploit. With the self-funding Brunner as the nominee, Republicans likely wouldn’t have had to spend money to hold onto the seat. With Akin, Republicans are very confident about their prospects – a recent poll showed him leading McCaskill by five points — but they’ll need to expend resources against the freshman senator.
Kraushaar’s incorrect about Republicans’ need to “hold onto the seat,” because it’s currently occupied by Democrat Senator McCaskill; it’s the Democrats who need to hold the seat. Even if one assumes that Akin is the weakest of the three in a general election, that’s still going to be a tall order. He beat Brunner’s self-financed campaign, and Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Sarah Steelman. If McCaskill as an incumbent couldn’t outpoll Akin as one of three potential challengers in statewide surveys before the primary, chances will be slim that she can outpoll him after Republicans unite behind Akin.
It’s the Democrats who will have to dump a ton of money into Missouri, and that probably won’t be enough. Akin won without having personal or party resources against two better-funded opponents, and it looks like he knows how to succeed in those circumstances.
In Kansas, meanwhile, USA Today has a much different take on the state senate fight:
The Kansas primary was defined by a fight between the state GOP’s conservative wing and its more moderate elements. Conservative Republican challengers had unseated six GOP moderates in the Kansas Senate and led two others, improving their chances of reshaping the Legislature and ending a check on the political right’s agenda.
In Michigan, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra withstood a late Tea Party challenge to win the Senate nomination — and got an endorsement from his opponent late last night:
Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra’s closest competitor in Michigan’s GOP Senate primary conceded Tuesday evening, and called on his supporters to unite behind Hoekstra, a former nine-term congressman.
Hoekstra was up against attorney Clark Durant in the GOP race. On Tuesday, Durant told his followers they must “unite behind candidates who will focus on the solutions to our record debt and spending crisis which effects every man, woman and child in Michigan.”
“This November, that candidate will be Pete Hoekstra and we should unite behind him,” Durant continued.
Hoekstra will face off against Debbie Stabenow. That will be a tough slog in Democrat-heavy Michigan, but Mitt Romney’s presence at the top of the ticket may give him a boost. Romney has polled close to Obama in the state, an indication that the economy will be a big issue up and down the ticket.
I’m not seeing how last night’s results represent Democrats “running the table,” as Kraushaar puts it. They did do pretty well in some aspects, but their prospects in Senate races hardly improved.