ODDS AND ENDS FROM SUPER TUESDAY…. It was a big day for high-profile primaries yesterday, but the biggest surprise was found in Arkansas. Incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) looked like an almost-certain loser in her runoff contest against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter — the base was livid with Lincoln; labor unions and progressive organizations had invested $10 million in ending her re-election bid; and “everyone knows” it’s an anti-incumbent year.
But when the votes were tallied, Lincoln came out on top, 52% to 48%. How’d that happen? Chris Cillizza takes a crack at it.
Lincoln always had an electoral base — as was made evident in the primary — in the 1st and 2nd districts. She had represented the 1st district from 1992 to 1996 and had strong ties in and around Little Rock (Pulaski County), which comprises the heart of the 2nd. Halter, by contrast had no obvious geographic base and his strength among liberals nationally didn’t translate all that well in Arkansas where liberals do not make up a particularly large portion of the vote even in a Democratic primary.
Lincoln also had a (not so secret) weapon on her side in former President — and, more importantly, former Arkansas Governor — Bill Clinton. Clinton appeared in Little Rock in late May and appeared in television ads for her in the final week of the runoff. Even the Halter forces acknowledged that Clinton was, without question, the most popular political figure in the state. Lincoln’s margins — particularly in Pulaski — seem to be a direct result of Clinton’s support.
Finally, Lincoln stuck to her message — I am one of you and will fight for you — from the start of her advertising in the primary to the end of her television ads in the runoff. Her final, direct-to-camera ad was powerful stuff that tapped into the genuineness voters are looking for in their politicians. “I’d rather lose this election by fighting for what is right than win it by turning my back on Arkansas,” she said at the ad’s close.
I talked overnight to some progressive activists directly involved in the race, and they all said the exact same thing: this was about more than turning away Lincoln for her center-right voting record; it was also about keeping the seat in Democratic hands. Polls show Lincoln trailing Rep. John Boozman (R) by wide margins in general election match-ups.
It’s tough to summarize the results of primaries in 11 states from coast to coast, but here are some other notables from last night:
* In Nevada’s Republican Senate primary, Sharon Angle cruised past Sue “Chicken for Checkups” Lowden, 40% to 26%. This gives Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) exactly the match-up he wanted — Angle was the nuttiest, most extreme candidate in the field.
* In South Carolina’s tumultuous Republican gubernatorial primary, Nikki Haley thrived despite allegations of extra-marital affairs, but came up just short of winning 50% and avoiding a runoff election. Haley is the heavy favorite to get the nomination and win in November. Also in South Carolina, incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis (R) is headed for a runoff in his re-election bid, and appears very likely to lose — he came in second, winning only 28% of the vote, and trailing Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy by 12 points.
* In California’s Republican Senate primary, Democrats didn’t want to admit it too much out loud, but they were praying GOP voters would nominate Carly Fiorina over the more electable former Rep. Tom Campbell. They got their wish — Fiorina won by 34 points. Also in California, Rep. Jane Harman (D) easily won her primary against Marcy Winograd, and “Birther Queen” Orly Taitz was crushed in the Republican primary for Secretary of State.