Tuesday's primary results are in "“ well, sort of anyway. We're still awaiting a final count on the much-hyped Mississippi battle between Sen. Thad Cochran (R) and Chris McDaniel (R), but most other marquee results are complete. Here's what we found interesting:
-- It's a run-off in Mississippi. Barring some wholly unexpected late returns, McDaniel and Cochran will square off again in three weeks after neither earned a majority of the vote (though both got very close). It's obviously not the worst-case scenario for the six-term senator, but the result should nonetheless deeply worry Cochran supporters. Longtime incumbents aren't dragged to a run-off unless voters have serious questions about their campaign. It's hard to consider McDaniel (who will also benefit as the state's strange blogger scandal fades from headlines) anything other than a favorite the next three weeks, especially if the media begins aggressively questioning Cochran's aptitude after a revealing, hard-hitting Atlantic story about the senator suggested he has a weak grasp on his own agenda.
-- State Sen. Joni Ernst (R) was expected to finish first in the Senate Republican primary in Iowa, but nobody predicted she'd end up well north of 50 percent. That's a big boost of momentum for a candidate who "“ while certainly viable "“ still prompts a few private doubts among Republican operatives about her readiness. Still, Iowa is a purple state with an open seat in a tough national climate for Democrats. It's clearly a pick-up opportunity for the GOP, in the same category of other second-tier opportunities like Colorado and New Hampshire.
-- Other than perhaps Allyson Schwartz (D), the year's most disappointing candidate might be millionaire businessman Mark Jacobs (R) in Iowa. Despite a big cash advantage, he somehow managed to finish below even underfunded radio talk show host Sam Clovis (R). What's especially strange is political neophytes with a big wallet "“ Tom Wolf (D) in Pennsylvania, David Perdue (R) in Georgia, and most recently another Tuesday primary winner Tom MacArthur (R) in New Jersey "“ have otherwise had a strong start to 2014.
One quick note on House races: Democrats appear to have qualified a candidate for the general election in liberal-leaning CA-31 in Pete Aguilar (D), something they couldn't manage in 2012. (This is a district Obama carried twice.) But the fact that disaster nearly struck again, even though the DCCC and other groups were painfully aware of the dangers, suggest that California's top-two primaries will continue causing trouble for Democrats unless they adjust their strategy in situations like this -- perhaps to include massive spending like Democratic outside groups did on Julia Brownley's (D) behalf in CA-26 two springs ago.
-- Alex Roarty and Jack Fitzpatrick