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
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