The polls close in South Carolina in just a few minutes, so here’s your thread. Politico runs down all nine key races, including the tea-party challenge to Bob Inglis in SC-4, the last stand of scandal-ridden Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, and the attempt by Meg Whitman to buy herself the gubernatorial nomination in California by spending $81 million. (By comparison, Romney spent $45 million on his presidential campaign.)
Of the four marquee races, only two are in doubt. Fiorina and Haley should win easily; the question in the latter’s case is whether she can finish off the field tonight by pulling a clear majority or whether we’re in for two more weeks of sleaze before the run-off. The close races are for the GOP Senate nomination in Nevada, where tea partier Sharron Angle now leads early frontrunner Sue Lowden, and in Arkansas, where Blanche Lincoln actually trails lefty darling Bill Halter despite endorsements from Obama and Bill Clinton. You’ll be hearing a lot tomorrow in the media about those darned polarizing wingnuts if Angle pulls this out, but remember that Lincoln, the 60th vote for ObamaCare, somehow wasn’t left enough for the left, even in a red state where a more centrist Democrat is likelier to fare better in the general. If she loses, she’ll be the third incumbent senator this year to crash and burn in a primary, which is the highest number since 1980. Think that might have any “polarizing” effect on how senators who are up for reelection in 2012 will vote over the next two years?
You can follow the multi-state results at Politico’s homepage. One last fun fact: Orly Taitz, a.k.a. America’s most famous Birther, is on the ballot for California secretary of state and may have an outside chance of winning. If she does, do you s’pose the media might draw any lessons from it tomorrow?
Update: Chris Cillizza also has a useful short-take analysis of the various nominations in play tonight. No results from California until 11 p.m. ET, so get comfy. Keep your eye on that Inglis race I mentioned, too. If he survives, he’ll do so with a vote for TARP on his record.
Update: Haley was hovering around 42 percent in early returns, but with 28.5 percent of precincts reporting, she’s at a cool 47.7. Stay tuned…
Update: With 65.1 percent reporting, she’s now inched up to 48.4 percent of the vote. I’m wondering if, with Haley so close to a majority, Barrett will concede outright if she finishes just shy of 50. He’ll need all of McMaster’s and Bauer’s voters to make a race of it, and he ain’t getting all of McMaster’s and Bauer’s voters (although he’ll get plenty). Maybe he hangs around just because of the smear factor, hoping against hope that one of the charges against Haley will pan out in the next two weeks and hand him the nomination.
Update: With 88.5 percent reporting, Haley’s tantalizing close to a clear majority with 48.9 percent of the vote. Politico’s running tally from the AP now has a symbol indicating she and Barrett are bound for a runoff, though. Not sure how they can call that with 10 percent of precincts still to go, unless they’re all based in anti-Haley areas.
Update: Fox News is now reporting that it’s a runoff. Damn it. Oh well — two more weeks of smears.
Update: To answer my earlier question, yes, Gresham Barrett fully intends to go through with the runoff. What if Jim “Rock Star” DeMint jumps in and endorses him? Game-changer?
Update: Eeenteresting. Looks like Inglis is going to finish a distant second in his House race (he trails 39/27 as I write this), which means that, like Barrett, he’s headed for a runoff — and near-certain defeat. Also in South Carolina, an unbelievable upset: Alvin Greene, a 32-year-old military vet who raised no money and had no campaign website, beat prohibitive favorite Vic Rawl 59/41 for the right to be crushed by Jim DeMint in November. The state party chairwoman suspects that people simply voted alphabetically because they didn’t know either candidate. How bad a candidate is Greene? This bad.
Update: With 80 percent of the votes in and Lincoln leading by less than two percent, the AP calls it for her. Is that good news or bad news? A centrist incumbent will be harder to beat — but on the other hand, an awful lot of progressives and union honchos will be crying in their beer tonight, which is always tasty. Three cheers for a divided Democratic caucus!
Update: John Boozman, Lincoln’s Republican opponent in the general election, leads her by 20 points.
Update: The White House finds a Teachable Moment in Halter’s defeat:
A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration’s sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama’s candidate, in Arkanas.
“Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toiled on a pointless exercise,” the official said. “If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.”
Update: At 11:45 ET, the races are starting to be called in California. No surprise: With only 5.5 percent reporting, the AP calls it for Meg Whitman. It’ll take a bit longer for Fiorina but she’s up by 35 points as I write this. Maybe by midnight?
Update: Nope, not by midnight but not long after: At 12:10 a.m., the AP calls California for Fiorina. Only one big race left now. All eyes on Nevada, where Sharron Angle’s leading comfortably by six points over Lowden with about one-third of all precincts reporting.
Update: With 59.3 percent reporting, it’s lights out in Nevada: The AP says Angle, who’s currently leading by more than 10 points, is your winner. Jim Geraghty feels a chill wind blow:
Sharron Angle has her fans; she’s been endorsed by Mark Levin, Erick Erickson of RedState, and the Club for Growth. Ultimately, this is a choice for Nevada Republicans; if they conclude that Angle’s no-holds-barred conservatism is what they want to represent them, they’re free to make that choice. But they shouldn’t be surprised to see 70-year-old Harry Reid doing cartwheels shortly thereafter. The Senate majority leader has spent more than $8 million so far in this campaign, with little effect on his lousy poll numbers, but he could spend large chunks of his remaining $9 million or so on television advertising painting Angle as a beer-banning, felon-massaging, tax-hiking FEC scofflaw.Will that be enough to save Harry Reid in a state with high unemployment, the state hardest hit by the housing crash? Perhaps not, but he clearly prefers his odds against Angle to those against the other options.
Whatever you feel about Angle, this may well be the best night Republican women have ever had.