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Winners and losers: The August 24 primary edition

It was an amazing night -- and morning -- as the final primary day of the summer delivered a series of upsets in Senate, gubernatorial and House races.

The Fix is still a little groggy from our live-blogging of the proceedings but we are never too tired to sift through election results to find some of the less obvious winners and losers from the primary night that was.

Our take is below. Have winners and losers of your own? The comments section awaits.


Sarah Palin: Just when it looked like her influence in Republican primary fights was fading, Palin came back with a vengeance last night -- as all five of her endorsed candidates appeared headed to victories including Alaska attorney Joe Miller who led Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Both Murkowski and Miller blamed/credited Palin with the result, which is rightly seen as the biggest upset of the 2010 cycle to date. The message? In Republican primaries -- particularly small turnout affairs -- the energy and enthusiasm that Palin can help create is invaluable.

Kendrick Meek: Meek's wide victory over billionaire Jeff Greene in last night's Senate Democratic primary in Florida should convince (at least some) of the doubters who don't think he has a chance to be competitive against former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) and Gov. Charlie Crist (I) this fall. And, given the wildly unpredictable nature of the Florida political landscape, anyone who tells you what is going to happen next in the Senate race (or any race) in the state is just not telling the truth.

McCain campaign team : The political organization put together by the Arizona Senator, a group that included many veterans of the 2008 presidential campaign, ran one of the most ruthless (in a good way) races that we have witnessed. The McCain campaign understood from earlier this year that former Rep. J.D. Hayworth posed a serious challenge to the incumbent. Armed with that knowledge -- and a little bit of fear -- they executed a plan to simultaneously shore up McCain among conservatives while discrediting Hayworth among that same group. (It didn't hurt that McCain raised and spent better than $21 million on the race.) The strategy worked perfectly -- putting the race out of reach months ago and ensuring a fifth term for McCain.

Florida TV stations: Former health care executive Rick Scott spent better than $50 million of his own money on his upset primary victory over state Attorney General Bill McCollum in the Republican governor's race. And, he'll spend tens of millions more against state CFO Alex Sink this fall. Combine that spending with the millions (and millions) that Rubio, Crist and maybe even Meek will spend in the Senate race and Sunshine State television station owners have to be feeling good about their chosen profession this morning.

Brian Dubie Dubie, Vermont's lieutenant governor and the GOP nominee for the top office this fall, has to be thrilled with yesterday's voting. Three Democrats -- state Senate President Peter Shumlin, state Sen. Doug Racine and Secretary of State Deb Markowitz -- were all within 1,000 votes of each other with 89 percent of precincts reporting. State law allows for a candidate to request a recount if the margin between two candidates is less than two percent, which it almost certainly will be no matter who wins the Democratic nod. An extended recount is great news for Dubie who Republicans have long argued is a favorite in November.

Gabrielle Giffords: The Arizona Democrat got an unexpected gift when unheralded Jesse Kelly upset establishment favorite Jonathan Paton in the 8th district Republican primary last night. Giffords, who has held the southern Arizona seat since 2006, won't take anything for granted but Democrats have to feel better about her chances today than they they did even a week ago. And, Giffords' likely re-election is bad news for Sen. Jon Kyl (R) whom she is likely to challenge in 2012.

"Summerwind": The 145-foot yacht of billionaire Jeff Greene became a centerpiece of the Florida Democratic Senate primary. Has there been such a high profile political boat since "Monkey Business"?

Brock Landers: Whether or not Arizona 3rd district primary winner Ben Quayle used this pseudonym to post comments on the now infamous "Dirty Scottsdale" website, is immaterial. What's important is that the whole incident allows us to link to this.


Florida Republican establishment/Republican Governors Association: Everyone who was anyone in Florida Republican politics endorsed and worked for McCollum in the governor's race. And, while the RGA didn't formally endorse in the race, its public rebuke of an ad Scott ran linking McCollum to former state party chairman Jim Greer was seen as a signal of who the committee would have liked to see win. The RGA didn't seem to be in the forgiving mood last night either, issuing the most lukewarm of endorsement statements for Scott that included this gem: "Intraparty struggles are often difficult to watch, and the contest in Florida has been a good example of that." Scott's wealth likely means the RGA won't need to spend in Florida -- a long term benefit -- but state and national Republicans believed McCollum was the better candidate and watched him go down to defeat.

TARP: The Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Congress approved in the fall of 2008 as the urging of President George W. Bush, continues to be the bane of many Republican incumbents existence. The seeds of Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R) likely defeat were planted when she voted for TARP -- in much the same way that the vote damaged Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), South Carolina Rep. Gresham Barrett and a slew of other Republicans in their campaigns this year. Expect TARP to be a major flash point for Republican presidential hopefuls in the coming year.

The McCain brand: While it's impossible to question the quality of the campaign McCain ran, it's equally difficult to argue with the idea that the Arizona Senator's rapid move to the ideological right -- and outright rejection of the "maverick" label which he wore so proudly for so many years -- will impact him when he returns to the Senate for the 112th Congress. McCain will almost certainly seek to reassert himself as the central dealmaker in the Senate but will the White House -- or any Senate Democrat -- be willing to extend their hand to a man who spent the last year bashing them?

Allen Boyd: Boyd's unconvincing Democratic primary victory over state Sen. Al Lawson in Florida's 2nd district is certain to elevate him on Republican target lists this fall. Boyd spent better than $2 million to take just 51.5 percent of the vote. Boyd allies are right when they note that a challenge from a black elected official in a district that has a significant black population was always going to be a real race. And, they're also right that funeral home director Steve Southerland, the Republican nominee, hasn't raised much money to date. But, Boyd is going to have to quickly unite the party and pivot to a real general election fight in a north Florida district that John McCain won by nine points. That's tough.

Positive campaigns: Murkowski was told two months ago to use her massive financial advantage over Miller to go negative -- defining him before he ever had the chance to do it for himself. She resisted -- and likely lost because of it. Meanwhile, McCain went negative early and often -- and spent everything he had -- in a primary with a similar insider-outsider dynamic. He won by 24 points. Lesson learned.

By Chris Cillizza  | August 25, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Winners and Losers  
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Next: Daily Fix Poll: What's to blame for Lisa Murkowski's apparent loss?

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