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Coats, Fisher win; NC-Senate to runoff

Updated, 10:15 pm
Former Sen. Dan Coats won the Republican Senate nomination in Indiana tonight in a race that had drawn significant attention from national conservative leaders.

Coats beat out two candidates -- state Sen. Marlin Stutzman and former Rep. John Hostettler -- who had sought to tap into the energy of the tea party movement nationwide. Stutzman won the endorsement of South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, an emerging conservative leader, and that support seemed to propel the little known state senator into a second place finish.

That showing by Stutzman came as something of a surprise given the fact that Hostettler spent more than a decade in Congress. DeMint said that Stutzman had "exceeded all expectations with an unwavering commitment to conservative principles" despite coming up short.

Coats, who was heavily recruited into the Senate race by national Republicans, moves on to face Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D) in the fall election. Ellsworth, who has represented a southern Indiana district since 2006, will formally become his party's nominee on May 15 -- a process necessitated by Sen. Evan Bayh's (D) retirement. Bayh's departure came so close to the state's filing deadline that no Democrat was able to gather the signatures to make it onto the ballot, leaving the decision up to a group of party officials.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) sought to seize on that selection process as an issue in a memo released Tuesday night.

"Unlike the Democrat[ic] party bosses who plan to hand-pick their nominee this month without an open primary election, Republicans in Indiana have participated in a spirited, open, and inclusive primary contest over the last several months," said Cornyn.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director Eric Schultz retorted that Coats was a "deeply flawed candidate" and a "Washington lobbyist".

Indiana was one of three states that held primaries Tuesday.

In Ohio, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher bested Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to claim the Democratic Senate primary nomination and move on to face former Rep. Rob Portman (R) in the fall campaign.

Fisher has struggled badly to deliver on the initial promise of his candidacy but national Democrats insisted that a staff shakeup several months ago had led to a turnaround. Fisher was also aided by Brunner's inability to raise sufficient amounts of campaign cash, an edge that allowed him to run several weeks of television ads with no response from his opponent. Fisher begins the general election at a significant cash deficit to Portman, however.

In North Carolina, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D) and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) are headed for a June 22 runoff after neither candidate broke 40 percent of the vote.

That result buys national Democrats a bit more time to try and help Cunningham across the line. The national party helped recruit Cunningham into the race under the belief that he was the candidate best equipped to beat Sen. Richard Burr (R) but watched as Cunningham underpeformed on the fundraising front and struggled to make up ground against the better known Marshall. Democrats view Burr, who won the seat in 2004, as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country.

The Indiana race drew the most attention of all the races on the ballot nationwide Tuesday as some cast it as a referendum on the power of the tea party movement. Coats' victory, which ensures that the race will be near the top of Republican pickup opportunities, came after a surprisingly difficult primary campaign in which he struggled to adjust to Democratic attacks on his past lobbying work as well as a statement he made in 2008 that he planned to move to North Carolina when he retired.

Polling suggests that Coats starts the general election as a slight favorite although Democrats insist that the problems he encountered in the primary will be magnified in a major way come November.

At the House level, embattled Indiana Reps. Mark Souder (R) and Dan Burton (R) won their respective races.

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 4, 2010; 9:07 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Next: Primary night hands wins to party establishment


Coats also used to represent the 3rd CD (he succeeded Dan Quayle, and was succeeded by Jill Long), so I wonder how many people in the Fort Wayne area remember him. Against Brad Ellsworth, it's a Northern IN vs. South Indiana race.

Posted by: joeyjoejoe | May 5, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Coats may be toast in the general. Ellsworth is a solid candidate and has been able to stock pile cash while Coats has been having to spend it. Indiana leans conservative, but I think more conservative Democrat style than conservative Republican. I think Coats, is a weak campaigner, his flaw are obvious and more crucially can be formed into a narrative by Ellsworth that can be used against him. It is a test between Indiana, hometown values, vs well... lobbyist, out of state values. Living in Indiana my whole life I can easily see how the narrative can be formed.

In other noteworthy news, the strong showing by Demint backed challenger shows the strong influence Demint has in Tea Party and conservative wing politics.I doubt he is throwing his weight behind challengers for no reason, I think he is trying to start a movement to reclaim conservative values and make it mainstream Republican politics but I think he is doing it to form a movement that will sweep him to the Republican nomination. The current field is weak and the strength of the grassroots will be similar to the grassroots that helped overcome Clinton's campaign infrastructure strengths.

Posted by: birkenja | May 5, 2010 2:16 AM | Report abuse

Does calling a candidate out as a "Washington Lobbyist" ever carry much weight with the voters? Am I wrong to think that people are more likely to be moved by the term "Washington Insider" than by "Washington Lobbyist"?

If so, perhaps this is because most of us don't know exactly what it is that a lobbyist does. Tons of politicians left, right, and center have "sold out" for the paychecks of a lobbying career, so perhaps few voters are surprised when the "lobbyist" bomb is "lobbed" at a candidate.

Ah, so Dan Coats is a politician AND a Washington Lobbyist? What's next? Don't vote for that fish because it's a Potomac Swimmer?

Posted by: dognabbit | May 5, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse


Your comment at 11:13

The bomb in Times Sq was still a foreign terrorist attack - even if the bomb didn't go off.

The Detroit bomber over the holidays was still a foreign terrorist attack - even if the bomb didn't go off.

The Colorado - Subway NY Queens bomber - was still an attempted terrorist attack.

The Fort Hood Shooter - was still a foreign terrorist attack.

Also, the attacks in Madrid and London - one still has to look at those as foreign attacks - those are NATO countries - and by treaty attacks against those countries are considered attacks against the United States.

I really don't like the tone of your comment - how many Americans have to die before you wake up ???

Seriously, give me a number, HOW MANY ???


Posted by: 37thand0street | May 4, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

I just want to make one comment

No one in New York is terrorized by the Times Square bomb.

A few weeks ago, there was a dead body lying on the sidewalk in New York - a videocamera taped 20 people walking OVER the body and no one cared.

That's what would have happened in Times Square - people wouldn't have cared - they would have just walked over the bodies - maybe kicked them a little.

In New York, the rats carry knives.... for a reason.


Posted by: 37thand0street | May 4, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

The Obama administration played down the fact that Shahzad, a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, had made it aboard the plane. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wouldn't talk about it, other than to say Customs officials prevented the plane from taking off. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the security system has fallback procedures in place for times like this, and they worked.


Obama should resign.


Posted by: 37thand0street | May 4, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Unlike the Democrat[ic] party...yadda, blah,, and inclusive primary contest over the last several months," said Cornyn.

I feel bad Chris had to [re]construct Republican usage.

Even worse, Cornyn wants inclusive to be ironic usage.

A stupid game.

Posted by: shrink2 | May 4, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Gen Petraeus?? Very interesting comment. We haven't had a General since Ike. Everybody said that a Gen as POTUS was long overdue, the only thing Powell had to do in 1996 or 2000 was sign the on the dotted line and he would have won by a landslide. Patraeus certainly has the political knack and the intelligence to do it, but if it's not in his heart (like it wasn't in Powell's heart), its a tough sell. To the Drone person, how can you argue that drones are causing more foreign terrorist attacks on US soil when we haven't had any foreign terrorist attacks since 9/11?

Posted by: madstamina | May 4, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Well, the eleven o'clock news did produce one obvious result, the T's down in SW Ohio got creamed.

Let's see if they get the message.

Posted by: ceflynline | May 4, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

At what point will Obama realize his little "drone" attacks are not enough to deter attacks against the United States ???

How many people have to die???

How many Americans have to die before Obama and the democrats realize we really have to get tough with those in the Middle East - to convince them never to try to attack us again ????

Obama's weakness is inviting more attacks here in the US.

Obama's weakness is actually CAUSING more attacks here in the US - and could lead to more Americans being killed.


Posted by: 37thand0street | May 4, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Coats voted one of dumbest U.S. senators by Congressional staffers in a previous ranking? He shamelessly defended throwing gays out of the military and even if he wins, he's old and out of touch. He will be a seat warmer and be out of office in six years. Dan Coats is so dumb, he gives the Democrats a real chance they didn't have in Indiana.

Posted by: georgiaguy | May 4, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

My first choise for *President *General* *David Petraeus*

Posted by: Imarkex | May 4, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

The 'What If?' that we'll never know:
Would Hostettler have won the primary if he'd been backed by DeMint?

Coats getting less than 40% is pretty poor for an establishment-backed former Senator. And Hostettler & Stutzman picked up 50% between them - a lesson in vote splitting.

It certainly shows DeMint's impact. His endorsement probably gained Stutzman 10%.

Posted by: JayPen | May 4, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

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