Primary night results mostly follow expectations

Despite a couple of nailbiters overnight, the narrative ran pretty close to expectations in the four primary states contested yesterday.  The big news today will be the results in Georgia, where it appears that Nathan Deal may have edged out Karen Handel for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.  The race became a proxy fight for Republican presidential contenders, with Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney backing Handel, and Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich backing Deal:

The Georgia Republican runoff for governor remained undecided Tuesday night, with former Rep. Nathan Deal holding a lead of less than 1 percent over former Secretary of State Karen Handel.

With 99.9 percent of precincts reporting, Deal was ahead by a narrow margin of 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent – just under 2,500 votes.

Under state law, a candidate can request a recount when a race is decided by less than 1 percent, and Handel’s campaign gave no indication on Tuesday she would step aside.

“It’s just too close to call. We’re waiting and watching, and we’ll see what it looks like tomorrow,” Handel spokesman Dan McLagan told POLITICO.

A recount could string this out for a couple of more weeks, but it’s not likely to change the outcome with that amount of votes in play.  It would have to get within a few hundred votes to seriously put the Deal victory in jeopardy.  The recount likely won’t change the chances of Republicans in the general election, either, but it will certainly eat up resources that could better be used for running against the Democrats.  If the margin remains 2500 votes, I’d expect Handel to concede.

Of course, we Minnesotans know far too much about recounts to cheer anyone into demanding one unless absolutely necessary.  Mark Dayton won’t face one, although he almost managed to lose last night’s DFL primary, beating the endorsed candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher by just 5200 votes after spending millions directly and indirectly on the race:

Minnesota DFL voters on Tuesday narrowly decided that gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton has the right combination of money, message and political miles to lead them to victory.

After an achingly close night touched off fears of a recount, Dayton pulled ahead of Margaret Anderson Kelliher in the primary and now moves on in the race to be Minnesota’s next governor. After midnight, with 98 percent of the vote counted, the former U.S. senator led Kelliher by about 5,000 votes — enough that no recount would be needed.

But even as Dayton’s margin grew, the House speaker did not concede.

“We’re not making any decisions,” Kelliher told supporters in the early morning hours. “Hang in there.”

The close race was unexpected.  It pokes a big hole in the Star Tribune poll of just ten days ago, which had Dayton up by 10 points against Kelliher, and which ridiculously put Dayton into a double-digit lead against Tom Emmer.  Dayton spent most of the night behind the state House Speaker despite the money dump over the summer.  He has eked out a win — there is no way Kelliher will demand a recount, not in this state — but it leaves both his credibility and that of the Strib poll in tatters.

Meanwhile, Connecticut showed the power and the limits of self-funding.  As expected, Linda McMahon easily beat Rob Simmons and Peter Schiff for the nomination in the US Senate race, but didn’t get to 50%.  Shira Toeplitz thinks this is a big deal at Politico:

Wrestling maven Linda McMahon easily captured the GOP Senate nomination in Connecticut Tuesday, but if she thought free spending in a deep-blue state was the sole path to November success, her results showed that money isn’t everything.

McMahon spent $22 million for a come-from-behind convention victory, but still fell just short of topping the 50 percent mark in Tuesday’s three-way Republican primary.

Maybe Toeplitz meant to write that about Dayton instead.  McMahon didn’t break a sweat, but the real story about the limits of self-funding comes from the deep blue portion of deep-blue Connecticut:

Self-funding businessman Ned Lamont has lost another bid for public office in Connecticut.

Lamont fell short is his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor Tuesday. Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy bested Lamont easily–58 percent to 42 percent.

Lamont, who defeated then-Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Senate Democratic primary but lost to him in the general when Lieberman ran as an independent, opened his wallet big for this race, too.

He spent more than $9 million of his personal funds on the primary. Back in 2006, Lamont spent upwards of $17 million in his race against Lieberman.

Does this mean we won’t have Ned Lamont to kick around any more?

Meanwhile, in Colorado, the proxy war between the Clintons and Barack Obama is over … and Obama won.  However, that’s not all good news for Democrats:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet fended off a fierce challenge from Andrew Romanoff on Tuesday, earning the chance to win his appointed seat in November and extending the power of President Barack Obama’s brand at least a few more weeks.

Bennet led handily in early returns — 54 percent to 46 percent — quickly overcoming a Romanoff lead in the former state House speaker’s home turf of Denver. Romanoff called Bennet to concede and congratulate him before 8 p.m., less than an hour after polls closed in the mostly mail election.

If Bennet wanted to back away from the White House embrace now that he’s facing Republican Ken Buck, it would be hard to now: Obama called Bennet with congratulations early in the victory party.

It’s good news for the White House, who got to see that they haven’t become box-office poison in the primaries.  Now, with Bennet carrying the White House endorsement in a state increasingly reverting to its Republican roots, we’ll get to see whether Obama is box-office poison in the general election.  Bennet will be an incumbent defending his seat in an anti-incumbent and anti-Democratic cycle, carrying the endorsement of an unpopular President.  He’ll face a Tea Party candidate in Ken Buck, who defied the GOP establishment and won massive grassroots support despite getting outspent by over $2 million.  What could go wrong for Democrats?

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