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As bad as last night was, it could have been worse.  If it weren't for Sarah Palin's endorsement of Tea Party crazies, it's likely that we'd have at best a 50-50 Senate (and be reliant on Joe Lieberman), and maybe worse.

Michael Bennet appears to have squeaked out a victory in Colorado over far-right Republican Ken Buck.  Buck (an obscure county prosecutor) won a surprise Republican primary victory over Lt. Gov. Jane Norton based in large part on Sarah Palin's endorsement - Norton's slightly more moderate positions and better state-wide recognition likely would have won the seat in the general election.

In Delaware, GOP Rep. Mike Castle held a double digit lead over Chris Coons for Joe Biden's old seat, and the DSCC wasn't even planning to contest the race.  But Palin's endorsement of ex-witch Christine O'Donnell beat Castle in the GOP primary.  Score two for Palin.

And in Nevada, state GOP chair Sue Lowden (Chickens for Check-ups) had a strong lead over the very unpopular Harry Reid.  But Palin's endorsement of the previously obscure Sharron Angle cost Lowden the GOP primary.  Angle was just too crazy even for the Nevada voters.  (Special thanks to Palin for coming to Nevada just before the general election to remind the voters why not to vote for the GOP.)  That's three for Palin.

Beyond that, in Connecticut ex-GOP Rep. Rob Simmons would have put up a much more serious fight in the general election against Richard Blumenthal than did Linda McMahon.  Palin endorsed the more conservative McMahon in the GOP primary, who ended up being a terrible general election candidate.  In this case it's not clear that Palin's endorsement was decisive in the primary; McMahon self-funded with tens of millions of her WWE profits.  Blumenthal beat McMahon easily, but it is very difficult to say what would have happened had Simmons been the GOP candidate.

And in California, ex-GOP Rep. Tom Campbell was the moderate GOP primary candidate.  Palin endorsed ex-HP CEO Carly Fiorina in the GOP primary, who was much more hard-right.  (Palin is so unpopular in California that neither Fiorina nor GOP Gov. candidate Meg Whitman would campaign with her.)  Barbara Boxer won a close race over Fiorina; once again, it's very difficult to say if she'd have beaten Campbell.

Last, it appears Palin's selected candidate in her home state of Alaska, Joe Miller, went down in flames to the write-in campaign of Lisa Murkowski, despite Miller having beaten Murkowski in the GOP primary.  All told not, not a good night for Caribou Barbie.

This is not to say that Palin didn't have some negative impact.  Without her, Rand Paul doesn't win the Kentucky GOP primary over GOP establishment candidate Trey Grayson.  She helped launch Marco Rubio in the Florida GOP primary over Charlie Crist.  In both cases, the result is a winning US Senator who is even more conservative than otherwise would have been the case.

All this is a cautionary tale:  but for Palin and the Tea bagger crazies, the Democrats almost certainly would have no better than a 50-50 Senate split (relying on Joe Lieberman for a majority - not a good place to be), and easily could have been down 48-52.

Originally posted to BurlingameDad on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 08:30 AM PDT.

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