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Winners and Losers from Sept. 14 primaries

The 2010 primary season went out with a bang last night as marketing consultant Christine O'Donnell (R) pulled off an epic upset -- yes, political junkies will be talking about the Delaware Senate primary a decade from now -- over Rep. Mike Castle (R).

While the O'Donnell upset was the biggest news of the night, six other states -- and the District of Columbia -- all voted in primaries, providing the Fix with significant fodder for our day-after look at the winners and losers from the night that was.

As always, we aim to go beyond conventional wisdom to pick a few of the bests and worsts from primary night that you might not have thought of before.

Our picks are below. Have winners and losers of your own? Offer them in the comments section below.

WINNERS

Chris Coons: Coons is the luckiest guy in politics today. The New Castle County Executive was not the party's first choice to run for the seat being vacated by appointed Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) -- that was state Attorney General Beau Biden (on whom more below) -- but he is yet another example that being lucky is at least as important as being good in politics. That's not to say Coons isn't good -- he is. When we met with him, he was personable and realistic about the challenge of taking on a Delaware icon like Castle. Now he doesn't need to worry about that. And, he's the clear frontrunner to be the next Senator from the First State.

Tea party movement: There can be no debate after O'Donnell's victory in Delaware and real estate developer Carl Paladino's sweeping win over former Rep. Rick Lazio in the New York Republican gubernatorial primary that the tea party movement is a force to be reckoned with. While the primary season on the Republican side is officially closed, the impact the tea party will have on the fight for the 2012 Republican presidential nod should not be underestimated. Does the successes of the tea party in Republican primaries convince former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin or even South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint to make a run for president?

Sarah Palin: In the two highest profile primaries of the day -- Delaware Senate and New Hampshire Senate -- the former Alaska governor appears to have picked the right candidate. Palin had long been supportive of former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, who is clinging to a narrow lead over attorney Ovide Lamontagne as of press time, and got involved for O'Donnell just days ago. (O'Donnell did credit Palin with helping to provide a burst of late momentum in her victory speech last night.) Palin wasn't perfect -- her pick in the Maryland governor's race got trounced -- but the rising power of the tea party (and her status as one of its titular heads) means she has political capital to play with heading into 2012.

Charlie Rangel: Say what you will about the embattled New York Democratic Congressman but he still knows how to win elections in his Harlem-area district. Despite a pending ethics trial in the House -- and loads of negative national press -- Rangel easily dispatched a crowded primary field of opponents by winning a majority of the vote. Rangel is a winner today but could be a longer-term loser if he proceeds, as expected, with his House trial.

American Idol fans: Former Idol judge Kara DioGuardi's dad -- former Rep. Joe Dioguardi -- won the Republican nomination for the chance to take on appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) this fall. Joe DioGuardi has as much chance of winning this fall as this guy had of winning Idol.

PPP: The North Carolina-based polling firm released data a few days ago that showed O'Donnell ahead of Castle 47 percent to 44 percent. Because it's an automated poll -- interviews for the poll are not conducted by live callers -- many operatives (and journalists) dismissed the result. But, O'Donnell's six-point margin proved PPP's numbers were right.

LOSERS

Rick Lazio: A decade ago, he was a rising star Republican Congressman involved in one of the most high profile -- and expensive -- Senate contest ever against former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Today, Lazio is on the losing end -- big time -- of a gubernatorial primary race against a man whose claim to "fame" in this race was his propensity to forward inappropriate emails. Um, whoah.

Political Dynasties: It's not been a particularly good election cycle for candidates with famous last names and that trend continued last night. Among the losers: Chris Cox, the grandson of late President Richard Nixon, Katrina Swett, the wife of former New Hampshire Rep. Dick Swett and daughter of California Rep. Tom Lantos, and state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, who was seeking to avenge his father's loss back in 1970 at the hands of Rangel.

Beau Biden: The son of the vice president shocked the political world last year when he decided not to run for his dad's old Senate seat. The stated reason was that Biden had plenty to do in his current job as state Attorney General and, having just returned from a year in Iraq, he wanted to spend time with his family. (Biden also went on to have a stroke this spring although his health was not an issue when he made the decision.) But, the unstated reason was that he didn't like the prospect of challenging the legendary Castle -- particularly given that most people didn't expect Castle to spend much time in the Senate. Bypassing the race now appears to have cost Beau Biden a sure thing victory this fall.

Olympia Snowe/Dick Lugar: Snowe of Maine and Lugar of Indiana are two of the most prominent Republican moderates in the Senate. They also both happen to be up for re-election in 2012. Given what's happened to Sens. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as well as Castle's loss last night, it's not hard to imagine conservatives agitating to make examples out of Snowe and Lugar in much the same way next cycle. Will the tea party anger/energy have passed by then? And, if it hasn't, do either Lugar or Snowe decide to retire rather than run the risk of ending their long political careers on a sour note?

New Hampshire vote counting: Polls closed in the Granite State 17 hours ago. And yet, there is still only 90 percent of the vote counted. Isn't this the same place where the "first-in-the-nation" presidential primary is conducted ever four years? Come on, New Hampshire! We are better than that!

By Chris Cillizza  | September 15, 2010; 12:48 PM ET
Categories:  Winners and Losers  
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Next: Ayotte wins GOP nomination in New Hampshire

 
 
 
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