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Can the party establishment deliver in Tuesday's primaries?

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Senate primaries in Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina on Tuesday should give us a good indication of how much power each party's establishment still retains over its own voters.

In each race, the national parties have either overtly or somewhat subtly made clear which of the candidates they would prefer to be their nominee. But, in each there has been some restlessness within the party base about that choice.

The most obvious example is in Indiana where former Sen. Dan Coats was recruited into the contest by national Republicans but has struggled badly to consolidate his frontrunner status. Coats' saving grace may well be that grassroots conservatives appear to be splitting their votes between former Rep. John Hostettler and state Sen. Marlin Stutzman who recently won the endorsement of South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.

Friday Line

Less publicized but no less interesting for what they will tell us about the mood of the electorate are Democratic primary contests in Ohio and North Carolina.

In the Buckeye State, state and national Democratic leaders lined up behind Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in his primary fight against Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Fisher's campaign has been something short of stellar and the primary remained remarkably close for months -- although Fisher's ad campaign seems likely to deliver him the nomination.

Down in North Carolina, national Democrats spent weeks recruiting former state Sen. Cal Cunningham into the race under the belief that neither Secretary of State Elaine Marshall nor attorney Ken Lewis could beat Sen. Richard Burr in the fall. Cunningham began the race as a virtual unknown, however, and his fundraising has not been particularly good, raising the possibility that Marshall could win without a runoff on Tuesday.

If Coats, Fisher and Cunningham all wind up as their respective parties' nominees, it's worth re-examining the idea that the establishment wings of both parties will be upended this summer and fall. If two (or even all three) lose -- and that seems unlikely -- then there will be a genuine panic among party insiders.

As always, the number one ranked race is the most likely to switch sides. Agree? Disagree? Comments. Open. Business.

To the Line!

10 (tie). Florida (Republican controlled): Gov. Charlie Crist's independent candidacy gives Democrats a real chance at a seat that seemed like a lost cause as recently as last month. The longer Crist stays credible, the better for the Democratic nominee -- who is likely to be Rep. Kendrick Meek but might be free-spending real estate developer Jeff Greene. Ultimately, Meek's fate likely depends on how much (or little) money the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is willing to spend in the state. (Previous ranking: N/A)

10 (tie). Missouri (R): Secretary of State Robin Carnahan may be the best Democratic Senate challenger in the country. And, Rep. Roy Blunt (R) has real problems related to his time in the House Republican leadership and his familial lobbying ties. But, Missouri was the only 2008 swing state that went for John McCain, suggesting that the state leans Republican. (Previous ranking: 10)

9. New Hampshire (R): For all the negative attention she has received inside the Beltway for her sluggish campaign, former Secretary of State Kelly Ayotte (R) isn't seeing any diminution in her support in the Granite State. A recent Granite State/WMUR poll put her 15 points ahead of Rep. Paul Hodes (D). Ayotte still has to survive a September primary challenge from wealthy businessman Bill Binnie but she appears to be stronger than commonly thought in Washington. (Previous ranking: 7)

8. Colorado (Democratic controlled): Democrats have to be happy about how this race has played out over the past month. Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck, a conservative favorite, has put former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton on her heels in the Republican primary while former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff continues to struggle to raise enough money to be viable in his August primary race against appointed Sen. Michael Bennet. (Previous ranking: 6)

7. Pennsylvania (D): At the moment, it looks like party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter will win the May 18 primary against Rep. Joe Sestak but the last few weeks of the campaign are going to get ugly. Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) has run a picture-perfect campaign to date, raising gobs of money and doing everything he can to move to the political middle. Republicans are secretly hoping Specter winds up as the nominee since they think he typifies everything voters don't like about politics these days. (Previous ranking: 9)

6. Indiana (D): Former Sen. Dan Coats will likely win the GOP nomination on Tuesday but his primary campaign hasn't exactly been a confidence-inspiring effort for Republicans. Coats has seemed somewhat out of his depth -- watching as national Democrats stepped all over his decision to run and then not coming close to raising the sort of money that was expected out of him. Rep. Brad Ellsworth gets rave reviews from Democrats but it will be interesting to see how he wears in a statewide campaign. (Previous ranking: 5)

5. Illinois (D): The failure of the family bank of state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) is hugely problematic in this sort of political environment. Giannoulias has -- smartly -- spent the last week on offense, attacking Rep. Mark Kirk (R) for his ties to Goldman Sachs and Wall Street. The question that remains, however, is whether Giannoulias can withstand a sustained television onslaught from national Republicans that drags all of the details of the bank's failure (and his role as a senior loan officer) into the light. (Previous ranking: 8)

4. Nevada (D): Just when former state party chairwoman Sue Lowden looked like she was rising above the decidedly weak Republican field, she suggested in a debate that the best health care plan would be a barter system between patient and doctor. After an initial swirl of controversy, Lowden doubled down on those remarks -- hearkening back to olden times when people brought a chicken to the doctor in exchange for care. Um, what? It may not matter ultimately because polling continues to show that voters are ready to replace Sen. Harry Reid (D) with almost anyone. (Previous ranking: 4)

3. Arkansas (D): Both parties are playing host to interesting and competitive primaries on May 18. Until we know the identities of the two parties' nominees handicapping this race is somewhat difficult. But, a recent Research 2000 poll for the liberal Daily Kos blog suggested that no matter whether Sen. Blanche Lincoln or Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is the Democratic nominee ,Republicans likely start out with the edge in the Razorback State. (Previous ranking: 3)

2. Delaware (D): Democrats are optimistic about New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D). And, if Republicans had nominated anyone other than the popular, moderate Rep. Mike Castle this would have been a nip and tuck race. As it is, the burden of proof that this will be a competitive contest still rests very much on Coons. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. North Dakota (D): Sen. John Hoeven. (Previous ranking: 1)

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 30, 2010; 1:46 PM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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Comments

Hey Chris,

A post-primary nudge (again) to get the Ohio Senate race back on The Line.

Fisher's margin was only ten points, half of what was predicted.

But turnout was abysmal: 22%.

In my own Erie County,where turnout matched statewide percentage, his margin was slightly better -- 14 points -- but far off the 2-to-1 edge polled just a couple days before.

Portman's started his ads, spending some of that bankroll for much-needed name recognition.

Fisher-Brunner beat him 5,397 - 3,818 here.

(Beat him statewide, too.)

And John Kasich outpolled him among local Republican voters by more than 10%.

(Even worse statewide.)

So Portman's money advantage isn't as great as it may seem at first blush.

This was his first time on a statewide ballot. He hasn't even been in elected office in years.

He's going to have to spend millions answering the question: "Rob, who?"

Also, based on conciliatory statements from both candidates Tuesday night, I think Brunner and Fisher will work to mend fences and bring the party together.

If Fisher can do one of things he absolutely does best -- raise money -- you should expect this to become a real barn-burner of a race.

And most deserving of a cherished slot on The Line!

Kurt Landefeld
Huron, Ohio

Posted by: kurtolandefeld | May 6, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

HOW CAN ANYONE VOTE FOR ANY DEMOCRATIC HOT CHECK SPENDTHRIFT CONGRESSMAN OR SENATOR?? THEY HAVE COME OUT OF THE CLOSET AS PURE SOCIALISTS AND ARE DESTROYING AMERICANS FUTURES AND OUR ECONOMY. COME ON FOLKS. GET WISE STOP SUPPORTING THESE OUT OF CONTROL NUTS OF BOTH PARTIES. IF THEY ARE SPENDTHRIFTS VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE!

Posted by: cdorbg | May 4, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Re:For all the negative attention she has received inside the Beltway for her sluggish campaign, former Secretary of State Kelly Ayotte (R) isn't seeing any diminution in her support in the Granite State.


Kelly Ayotte is actually former Attorney General

Posted by: rjmaloneymaloneycocom | May 4, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

U.S. Senator Arlen Specter is clearly the best choice for Pennsylvania in 2010!

Posted by: atifgulab | May 3, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

CC, I have a slightly different line.
1. North Dakota
2. Delaware
3. Arkansas
4. Indiana
5. Nevada
6. Colorodo
7. Illinois
8. Pennsylvania
9. Florida
10. Ohio
11. California
12. Washington
13. Connecticut
14. Wisconsin

I do believe everyone else is really safe, including NY Senator Kristin Gillibrand.

Posted by: reason5 | May 3, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The bigger question will be, where Republican Party State Organizations DO get their man nominated, will the Tea Party decide to run THEIR people against them. This is the far right wing of the Republican Party, where loyalty goes only one way. Their sense of entitlement to all the republican nominations and Congressional Seats they want is going to be a factor come November, the only question being HOW BIG!

Posted by: ceflynline | May 1, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Kelly Ayotte is not a former SOS. She's a former AG.

Posted by: johngalt1983 | May 1, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"Eh. I seriously doubt Lee Fisher losing to Jennifer Brunner in the Democratic primary here in Ohio would spark a panic. Fisher is the establishment candidate, sure, and he's got a lot of support lined up behind him, but with the exception of Fisher himself, I really don't think anyone in the state Democratic party is really dead-set against Brunner getting the nomination."

The biggest objection to Brunner going to the Senate is that it is easier to replace a Lt. Governor than to replace a Secretary of State. To replace the Lt. Governor, just find a Democrat named brown, (but not Sherrod). Ohio has had so many Lt. Govs named brown it is a joke.

Noteable about the race, in fact, is that it is still so low key that no feathers are ruffled and nobody goes home mad.

And Quinipiac has either Dem beating Portman. The R's say that that is because Portman isn't well known outside SW Ohio, but he doesn't even win down here, and by the time he is well established as Bush's Job Export Czar, he won't Want to be well known outside SW Ohio.

Posted by: ceflynline | May 1, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

"The question that remains, however, is whether Giannoulias can withstand a sustained television onslaught from national Republicans that drags all of the details of the bank's failure (and his role as a senior loan officer) into the light. (Previous ranking: 8)"

If he can hang the economy on the Republicans, and hang all the failures of family banks on The R's and Big Banking, (one item, not two) he may actually be able to use the bank failure in his favor. He hasn't been directly associated with the bank for a couple years, so its immediate problems probably aren't his, and its failure is basically caused by the bad economy. He gets to talk about how the Big Banks get bailouts and their executives then get incredible bonuses, while family banks like this get no help at all.

This particular incident can play either wey.

WHEN Giannoulias hangs his campaign on the bank failure and rides it to victory, mark him as a politician to watch in the future.

Posted by: ceflynline | May 1, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

"The most obvious example is in Indiana where former Sen. Dan Coats was recruited into the contest by national Republicans but has struggled badly to consolidate his frontrunner status. Coats' saving grace may well be that grassroots conservatives appear to be splitting their votes between former Rep. John Hostettler and state Sen. Marlin Stutzman who recently won the endorsement of South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint."

THIS IS THE DYNAMIC THAT WILL PLAY OUT IN THE FALL, LEADING TO BIG R LOSSES.

This just isn't happening on the Dem side.

Posted by: drindl | May 1, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

37tth,

The truth is the Republican party is a bunch of racists, have been for 40 years, still are. Your own party chairman even said so.

The Arizona law was pretext to allow Sheriff Arpaio to continue his racist antics ha's been sued regularly for over the past two decades. He's even pretty much said so.

You are now poised to lose Arizona and Texas within 10 years. I frankly don't care about the house this year, two years of stagnant government will be worth it once the coming realignment of the Southwest takes over. Recognizing that certain races will vote Democratic because we know they know the Republicans are a bunch of racists is not in itself racist. Obama never said they need to vote for him, he just said his supporters should make sure they get out to vote.

Just the truth here, man.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | April 30, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Just stick a cork in this crap, zouk, nobody cares. So you hate my guts, whoop de f ucking doo, who gives a damn. I don't, and nobody else does either. If you're so bored go learn to take snapshots, maybe your "son" would like you to paint him up with cosmetics again. Cultivating an effeminate?

Posted by: Noacoler | April 30, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

With Jake gone, Ped is looking for a new "partner".

Watch out 37th. Looks like her eyes are on you. Everyone else has declined the opportunity.

Posted by: Comrade_Zero | April 30, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Nobody hates you, 37th, hating takes more energy than anyone wants to expend on you.

We hate Cillizza for letting you jam the blog with trash.

Posted by: Noacoler | April 30, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Margaret, Shrink, Krueznazi


It's not me you hate.

You hate the truth.

If I was lying and saying that Obama was great, then you would love me.

It's pretty simple.

Case closed.

.

Posted by: 37thand0street | April 30, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Chris,

A vote to add the Ohio Senate race back to the Line.

I am a long-time Lee Fisher supporter just so you know where I'm coming from.

As much of a pain in the ass this primary campaign has been for Lee, I think it's made him a better candidate and put his campaign in much fitter shape than it was just a few months ago.

Moreover, it's enabled him to get out front on THE central issue here in Ohio: jobs.

I just came from a campaign event where he spoke easily and in depth about both federal policies and state programs that encourage the kind of economic development we need to recover solidly from this recession.

Again, I'm a longtime supporter and will accept whatever charges of prejudice I've earned.

But Chris, look at next Tuesday's margin and check your own sources inside SDCC, then get the Fisher-Portman race back onto the line where it belongs.

Posted by: kurtolandefeld | April 30, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

The democrats on this blog have to be honest with themselves - and with everyone else.

All Obama has been doing over the past two weeks is trumping up FALSE PARTISAN CHARGES - and trying to tie the Republicans to Wall Street when the Republicans were negotiatinga bipartisan agreement.

So Obama was distracting himself with PARTISAN ATTACKS - COMMITTING FRAUD AGAINST HIS OWN 2008 CAMPAIGN.

Obama should have been on top of the oil spill.

Obama should have made sure that the action was much much faster - now the weather is bad - and Obama WASTED VALUABLE TIME - MAKING THE WHOLE SITUATION MUCH MUCH WORSE.

This is Obama's Katrina.

Obama was more concerned over the past few weeks in LYING ABOUT THE REPUBLICANS - AND BACKING THEM INTO PARTISAN VOTES IN THE SENATE - than actually doing what he should have been doing.

Charge made - GUILTY.

.

Posted by: 37thand0street | April 30, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

bjchiszar

I said this a few days ago and got no traction. Crist will be the moderate (read safe) choice. And has anyone North of Miami ever heard of Meek?

Posted by: shrink2 | April 30, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

bjchiszar


Boy was that a racist remark.

.

Posted by: 37thand0street | April 30, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Attention Fixistas...Chris has gotten Florida 100% wrong...Gov Crist running as NPA will take votes FROM Democrats NOT GOP...there are more than 1 million Conservative Dems in north Florida and rural Florida who are not ever going to consider voting Meek...maybe Jeff Greene has a shot but no way in hell does Meek...Crist announcement was the offcial death nail in the dying Meek campaign...Come on Chris we expect better from you!
BJ Chiszar
Former Chairman-Miami Dade Democratic Party

Posted by: bjchiszar | April 30, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

The Pedant is at it again.

what does MSRP stand for Ped?

Posted by: Comrade_Zero | April 30, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Meek's fate likely depends on how much (or little) money

==

Not only is this really bad writing, it's a really bad habit and it reflects obedience to an impulse that you really ought to conquer, Cillizza. It's timid writing. Just leave off all the on-the-other-hand stuff, it sounds like you're completely adrift when we all know that your allegiances are purely Republican and country be damned

Posted by: Noacoler | April 30, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

On a side note, Chris, I'm not one to berate others for their typos -- even the best of us make mistakes -- but you might want to alter the first sentence of your fifth paragraph. I think the word you want is "lined," not "lied."

==

"lined up" isn't so great either, it reads like a sign in a welfare office. "Line up at the service window."

"queued up" is unambiguous and therefore preferred.

Posted by: Noacoler | April 30, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Eh. I seriously doubt Lee Fisher losing to Jennifer Brunner in the Democratic primary here in Ohio would spark a panic. Fisher is the establishment candidate, sure, and he's got a lot of support lined up behind him, but with the exception of Fisher himself, I really don't think anyone in the state Democratic party is really dead-set against Brunner getting the nomination. Fisher is seen as a more moderate -- and, therefore, viable -- candidate than Brunner, but both of them are still polling ahead of Rob Portman.

Besides, I think a lot of the reason Fisher's campaign has been -- as Chris noted -- pretty tepid thus far is because while Fisher himself is pretty gung-ho about it, the rest of the state Democrats don't want to go all-out to push Fisher just in case Brunner pulls off the upset. The Democratic establishment in Ohio will easily solidify behind Brunner should she win next week, as unlikely as that seems at this point.

On a side note, Chris, I'm not one to berate others for their typos -- even the best of us make mistakes -- but you might want to alter the first sentence of your fifth paragraph. I think the word you want is "lined," not "lied."

Posted by: GJonahJameson | April 30, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Mike Castle, 70 year-old Senate freshman. At least he already knows where the bathrooms and phones are.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 30, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Your giving the edge in Missouri to the Republicans made me smile. "But, Missouri was the only 2008 swing state that went for John McCain, suggesting that the state leans Republican."

The History Books tell us McCain won by 4000 votes out of 2.9 million votes cast. Legend says that state's election results weren't certified until 2 weeks later. That's not much of a lean there, sonny.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 30, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

More relevant to the MN gubernatorial run, eric black has a piece on the MN GOP's 2010 platform (still pending). They're clearly moving further right, with strong statements that will resonate with social conservatives and club for growth types.

http://www.minnpost.com/ericblack/2010/04/30/17790/what_republicans_believe

I am more convinced that Rep Emmer will emerge with the GOP endorsement for Gov (over Seifert), and run unopposed in the primary.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 30, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

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