Tuesday’s primaries were a fitting sequel to the last round on June 10, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) lost his seat. Here are three lessons we took from a wild primary night:
— Those who best know the rules, like President Obama‘s 2008 primary campaign, will often win the game. Team Cochran had its flaws, but they ran a better race than his opponents in Mississippi, starting with the key realization that they should tap black voters who hadn’t participated in the June 3 elections (and didn’t want the hard-right Chris McDaniel (R) to win) to vote in the open primary runoff. It was a completely legal, reasonable, strategic move that appears to have clinched a Cochran victory that probably couldn’t have happened otherwise.
— Meanwhile, another lesson on race and politics reemerged in NY-13, where Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) narrowly leads a primary that hasn’t yet been called. Hispanic voters outnumber African-Americans nearly 2-to-1 in Rangel’s district, but translating those population numbers into votes isn’t simple, as we also saw in African-American Rep. Marc Veasey‘s (D) majority-Hispanic TX-33 in 2012. Relatively higher black turnout appears to have saved Rangel again.
— The third lesson: Most incumbents are still winning, but don’t mistake that for safety (at least the way we’ve known it). As we told subscribers two weeks ago, Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) were the foremost candidates for Cantor-like surprises after quiet primaries, and at 53% Tuesday night, they both came very close to losing. Lamborn is especially interesting: He’s about as conservative as you can get, and his challenger was disliked by many of Lamborn’s former fierce critics. But Lamborn is just not well-liked by his primary voters. That might have been easier to get away with, once upon a time, but primaries are proving less and less forgiving for incumbents. More are getting pulled into dogfights, including at least 14 members who finished under 60% so far this year.
We’re about to enter a quiet primary spell, with only a few runoffs in July. But there is still plenty to think about after last night.
— Scott Bland
What We're Following See More »
Despite trailing Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, Bernie Sanders wasn't going the way of Ted Cruz tonight. The Vermont senator upset Clinton in Indiana, with MSNBC calling the race at 9pm. Sanders appears poised to win by a five- or six-point spread.
And just like that, it's over. Ted Cruz will suspend his presidential campaign after losing badly to Donald Trump in Indiana tonight. "While Cruz had always hedged when asked whether he would quit if he lost Indiana; his campaign had laid a huge bet on the state." John Kasich's campaign has pledged to carry on. “From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory,” said Cruz. “Tonight, I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed."
The Republican establishment's last remaining hope—a contested convention this summer—may have just ended in Indiana, as Donald Trump won a decisive victory over Ted Cruz. Nothing Cruz seemed to have in his corner seemed to help—not a presumptive VP pick in Carly Fiorina, not a midwestern state where he's done well in the past, and not the state's legions of conservatives. Though Trump "won't secure the 1,237 delegates he needs to formally claim the nomination until June, his Indiana triumph makes it almost impossible to stop him. Following his decisive wins in New York and other East Coast states, the Indiana victory could put Trump within 200 delegates of the magic number he needs to clinch the nomination." Cruz, meanwhile, "now faces the agonizing choice of whether to remain in the race, with his attempt to force the party into a contested convention in tatters, or to bow out and cede the party nomination to his political nemesis." The Associated Press, which called the race at 7pm, predicts Trump will win at least 45 delegates.