Breaking Down Tuesday’s Senate Primaries

Thad Cochran (R-MS) listens during a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 9, 2009.                                                                                                                                                                                
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
June 4, 2014, 7:45 a.m.

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

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