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A mixed primary night for the tea parties

Chris Cillizza sums up the election results in Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio from last night. There was a consistent pattern -- candidates of or supported by the tea party movement fell short, while keeping the establishment candidates below 50 percent of the vote.

The big disappointments happened in Indiana, where former senator Dan Coats, whose lobbying record has made him as exciting to tea party activists as a plate of stale tofu, grabbed 40 percent of the vote to beat state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, the candidate of the tea parties, and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). Stutzman outperformed the polls, but couldn't cobble together a plurality with three other candidates fighting for the same vote. And in the 5th district, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) won a paltry 29.7 percent of the vote ... but survived anyway, because six other candidates split the vote against him. The only thing you could interpret as a black eye for the establishment was the surprise defeat of former congressman Mike Sodrel, who was gunning for a rematch with Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) but lost to lawyer Todd Young, a Fair Tax supporter and a mainstay at tea parties.

In North Carolina, too, establishment candidates or incumbents endured their primaries; tea party candidates either flunked out or survived to runoffs. The more curious development came in the state's two Democratic-held swing seats, where Rep. Health Shuler and Rep. Larry Kissell both watched unknown opponents rack up nearly 40 percent of the vote. Shuler's opponent, Aixa Wilson, has one of the less comprehensible policy stances I've seen. Kissell's opponent, Nancy Shakir, challenged him from the left on his health-care votes. In both districts, more people voted in the Democratic primaries than in the GOP primaries -- in Kissell's case it was 38,782 Democratic votes to 25,752 Republican votes. But in both cases the votes for the Democratic incumbents were outmatched by the total vote for the GOP candidates.

It was in Ohio that the Republican establishment proved most resilient. Reporters had fun with the fact that Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) drew two tea party challengers; he got 84.6 percent against them. But at the same time, Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio) drew only 68.9 percent of the vote against his challenger, Jim Renner, a conservative who explicitly allied himself with the tea parties and scorched Wilson over his vote for health-care reform.

By David Weigel  |  May 5, 2010; 9:03 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Tea Party  
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Next: Race and the tea parties: The saga continues

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