It was a day that was long on close races, but short on surprises.
The first "Super" primary day of the 2010 cycle is now in the books, with three states (Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio) setting their starting lineups for the general election. In the three Senate races, the results went pretty much according to form. In the House races, there were a couple of minor surprises, but the favorites in those races generally came through, as well.
U.S. Senate--Republican Primary--100% of Precincts Reporting
Dan Coats 217,056 (39%)
Marlin Stutzman 160,929 (29%)
John Hostettler 124,383 (23%)
Others 47,880 (9%)
It will be (assuming the Democratic selection is the foregone conclusion that everyone expects) Democrat Brad Ellsworth defending this seat against former GOP U.S. Senator and Lobbyist Dan Coats. While this was a victory for the establishment candidate, it is worth noting that the two "insurgent" candidates combined for the majority of the votes. There can be little question that Stutzman and Hostettler split the conservative vote, allowing Coats to limp to the line with 39%. He begins the general, however, as a prohibitive favorite, given that polling in the Hoosier State has consistently shown in 2010 that the state is closer to the deep red of 2004 than the purplish hues it adopted in 2008.
Downballot, there was an eyeraising near-miss for a GOP incumbent, but it wasn't necessarily the one everyone thought would feel the pressure. Despite a late poll showing him in grave danger, Mark Souder (IN-03) had a surprisingly smooth path to re-election, defeating businessman Bob Thomas by a 48-34 margin. Meanwhile, Dan Burton (IN-05) got the sweat of a lifetime in a multi-candidate field that was expected to buttress him. The expectation was that the split anti-incumbent vote would be salvation for Burton, who won his 2008 primary with just 52% of the vote. This time around? He garnered just 30% of the vote. And, as expected, the multi-candidate field saved him, as his meager showing was still two points better than runner-up Luke Messer. Meanwhile, the closest primary of the night was in the southern tier of the state (IN-09), where former Congressman Mike Sodrel came in THIRD in his comeback attempt. With just 2300 votes separating first through third, Todd Young emerged victorious with 34% of the vote. He will take on Baron Hill, who enjoys his first Sodrel-free general election since 2000.
U.S. Senate--Democratic Primary--100% of Precincts Reporting
Elaine Marshall 155,006 (36%)
Cal Cunningham 116,309 (27%)
Kenneth Lewis 72,580 (17%)
Vulnerable GOP freshman Senator Richard Burr will have to wait for this one to go into overtime before he can focus on the general election. Per North Carolina electoral law, the Democratic primary heads to a runoff, as no candidate exceeded the 40% threshold. Marshall leads after round one by nine points. A quick glance of the best counties for third-place finisher Kenneth Lewis doesn't tell us a whole heck of a lot: some of them were excellent counties for Marshall, while others were places where Cunningham more than held his own. The local pollsters at PPP surveyed those supporting the also-rans at the beginning of the week, and found that they favored Marshall by a pretty decisive margin (51-27). There are still plenty of undecideds for Cunningham to mine, however. Plus, he gets another seven weeks (there is an enormous gap between primary and runoff in the Tar Heel State) to make his case.
Several races are headed to runoff on the House level, including quite possibly both of the targeted Democratic incumbents in the state (at present, the GOP frontrunner in Heath Shuler's 11th district is teetering right on the brink of 40%). The big story of the night was the fairly underwhelming performances of both Larry Kissell (NC-08) and Heath Shuler (NC-11) in their Democratic primaries. In a sign perhaps that the base is less than pleased with their fealty to party values, neither man was able to top 63% of the vote.
U.S. Senate--Democratic Primary--100% of Precincts Reporting
Lee Fisher 367,631 (55%)
Jennifer Brunner 295,577 (45%)
In the final analysis, the results of this competitive primary fell somewhere between the polling of the early part of the race (which showed a tight single-digit affair) and the polling of the final week (which showed a rapidly widening Fisher lead). When all was said and done, Fisher posted a ten-point win. Brunner ran extremely strong in the Cincinnati metro area, carrying Hamilton, Butler, Warren, and Clermont counties comfortably. Fisher countered with big leads in most of the populous counties elsewhere, including Cleveland's Cuyahoga County, Akron's Summit County, Canton's Stark County, and Dayton's Montgomery County.
Downballot, the race of the night happened in the GOP primary to challenge sophomore Zack Space (OH-18), where a recount is almost certain with a margin of just 159 votes between runner-up Fred Dailey and the current leader, establishment pick Bob Gibbs. Meanwhile, in the Democratic battle for the right to face the notorious Jean Schmidt (OH-02), reality show contestant and marketing executive Surya Yalamanchili held on for a 41-38 victory over '08 Independent candidate David Krikorian. Finally, the most heartbroken man in politics might be former Ashland County Commissioner Matt Miller (OH-16). After narrowly losing to incumbent Ralph Regula in 2006, and in an open seat contest against GOP establishment pick Kirk Schuring in 2008, Miller was foiled yet again, losing by a 49-40 margin against another insider's pick, businessman Jim Renacci.
Next up on the campaign trail: Nebraska and West Virginia next week (where the headline is a potentially perilous Democratic primary for longtime WV-01 incumbent Alan Mollohan). Most eyes in campaign junkie-dom, however, are on the 18th of May, where two big special elections for the House will be competing for attention alongside a quartet of big time primary states: Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.