It’s another Tuesday, and believe it or not, there are no primaries today! In fact, the next batch is not until September 14, when seven states plus the District of Columbia hold elections. This last weekend, however, voters in Louisiana and West Virginia went to the polls, with the latter limited to a special primary election for the late Robert Byrd’s Senate seat.
The results there were absolutely predictable, with Gov. Joe Manchin easily defeating Ken Hechler for the Democratic nod, and 2008 Senate nominee Jon Raese winning the Republican bid without breaking a sweat. Given the refusal of better-known Republicans to take on Manchin, this contest will provide a pretty good test of generic Republican strength in a red-leaning state where Democrats have often dominated in non-presidential elections.
Down in Louisiana, Senate candidates David Vitter (R) and Charlie Melancon (D) had no trouble winning their parties’ nominations. The more interesting contests were in two House districts. In LA-02, where Republican Joseph Cao pulled off a flukey win in 2008 over the ethically challenged Bill Jefferson, state legislator Cedric Richmond (D), the well-financed consensus choice of both New Orleans and DC Democrats, easily won the nomination without a runoff. This is perhaps the ripest Democratic House pickup opportunity in the nation. But in Melancon’s LA-03, a ripe Republican pickup opportunity, front-runner Jeff Landry, the beneficiary of Tea Party and Christian Right support, just missed avoiding a October 2 runoff against former state House Speaker Hunt Downer. The runoff will boost the uphill candidacy of Democrat Ravi Sangisetty, who has raised an impressive amount of money.
A major bit of unfinished business from last Tuesday’s primaries continued to play out today, as Alaska election officials began to count an estimated 25,000 absentee and provisional ballots. Former judge Joe Miller leads incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski by 1,668 votes, and things are getting nasty already with Miller’s campaign alleging vote-tampering by the Murkowski camp. On another front, the Alaska Libertarian Party decided against offering Murkowski its ballot line should she lose the GOP nomination. That means her options would be limited to a write-in campaign. The Libertarian action was bad news for Democratic candidate Scott McAdams, though the hatefulness surrounding the Republican contest could still give him an opening.
Meanwhile, in Delaware (another Senate contest where Republicans were assumed to have a virtual lock, in Delaware) the Tea Party Express has decided to weigh in on behalf of insurgent conservative candidate Christine O’Donnell, who is challenging Republican party establishment favorite Mike Castle.
Similarly, in NH, longtime front-running Republican Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte may be getting nervous following the endorsement of hard-core conservative Ovide Lamontagne by the New Hampshire (nee Manchester) Union-Leader. Democrat Paul Hodes has been leading Lamontagne in general election test heats.
And in yet another race often conceded to Republicans, a new PPP survey of NC (which involved a switchover by PPP from registered to likely voters) shows Democrat Elaine Marshall hanging in there against Sen. Richard Burr, trailing him 43-38 with 6% going to a Libertarian candidate.
It would be ironic, to say the least, if Democratic control of the Senate were saved by unlikely wins in Alaska, Delaware or North Carolina (not to mention Nevada, where most observers wrote off Harry Reid as early as last year), but it’s always possible.
And then there’s Florida, where two recent polls have shown Charlie Crist falling significantly behind Marco Rubio. Crist is in real danger of losing crucial Democratic support to freshly minted nominee Kendrick Meek, and is dancing around the key question of which party he would caucus with in the Senate.
The game of predicting Republican House gains is intensifying as we get closer to November, and this week GOPers are buzzing over a new Gallup House generic ballot poll that shows them with a ten point lead, the largest in Gallup history. But as Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal explains, this result looks a lot like a random-noise outlier, particularly when you compare it to the most recent Newsweek generic ballot poll, which shows the two parties tied. The overall trendlines, though, are hardly comforting for Democrats.