Another Super Tuesday in the Books

Lincoln has been selling herself as “tough on Wall Street” to attract the populist crowd. She campaigned as the more moderate candidate in a state that has become increasingly conservative in recent cycles (John McCain won by 20% in 2008). But all that money spent by the unions on a losing primary fight might have helped  Lincoln in the general election battle in a small state with inexpensive media markets. If the GOP takes back the U.S House in 2010 and wins most of the close races, there may be lots of second-guessing and hand-wringing on how the money wasted due to union spitefulness in Arkansas might have helped save some of the seats that may turn over. As Michael Barone wrote today, the big unions were messaging the Democratic Party that they own them and that they should not be crossed on their policy agenda. I think Boozman will win this race, though the margin will not be as high as 20 points.

Nevada: In the same way that taking down Tom Daschle capped election night for the GOP in 2004, defeating Harry Reid would provide great satisfaction for the GOP and conservatives this year. Nancy Pelosi is not beatable in very liberal San Francisco, but Reid is vulnerable in swing state Nevada. Like other Western swing states (New Mexico and Colorado), Nevada shifted decisively to Barack Obama in 2008, giving him a 12% margin of victory. A few months back, Reid trailed all three of the leading GOP contenders for his Senate seat, usually by high single-digit margins. More recent polls have shown a much closer race, with some polls putting Reid in the lead. Reid has survived tough challenges before, winning in 1998 by fewer than 500 votes over now Senator John Ensign.

In yesterday’s GOP primary, tea party favorite Sharron Angle, a former state legislator and school teacher, won a big victory over Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, the son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian. Angle led Reid by 3 points in the final poll published before the primary. This race is a toss-up, and Reid starts out much better funded than Angle, though she won the GOP primary with a smaller campaign budget than her opponents. Angle will undoubtedly be attacked for some controversial positions she has staked out, particularly on social security, but she will have enthusiastic grassroots support behind her. Nevada has a large number of union members and a rapidly growing Hispanic population. Reid will need a high turnout from both (there is substantial overlap between the groups) to win in November.

There is one wild card that will help the GOP. There will be two Reids on the ballot in November, as Harry’s son Rory will be the Democratic nominee for governor. The GOP got the candidate it wanted to run against him, with Brian Sandoval easily beating current Governor Jim Gibbons, whose term has been plagued by scandals. Sandoval has run far ahead of Rory Reid in trial match-ups. The strength of Sandoval at the top of the ticket, and maybe too many Reids for one year on the Democratic side, may boost Angle’s chances. I rate the Nevada Senate race as a toss-up, with a very slight lean to the GOP.

South Carolina: Will miracles never cease? In South Carolina, a woman with  two Sikh parents decisively won the GOP primary for governor, just missing the 50% of the vote required to avoid a runoff. Nikki Haley will be heavily favored  to win the runoff and be the GOP nominee. She would then be favored to  win the governors’ race in November. The GOP would then have two Indian American governors, Haley and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

Haley won key endorsements from Sarah Palin and former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford, and she likely won a very high share of the womens’ vote in the primary. Haley survived some scurrilous charges that she had committed multiple acts of adultery, all of which she denied. Her accusers included campaign aides to candidates running against her. This is a new low for South Carolina GOP contests, surpassing the whisper campaign against John McCain in the 2000 presidential primary for allegedly fathering a black baby out of wedlock.

Two GOP congressional primaries are also worth noting. In South Carolina 1, a strong GOP district in the Charleston area,   Congressman Henry Brown is retiring.  Tim Scott, a very conservative African American state legislator, led the field in the primary and will face a runoff with Paul Thurmond. If Scott wins the primary and  the general election, the GOP will have its first black U.S House member since Oklahoma’s J.C. Watts and the first black Republican in the U.S. House from the South since the Reconstruction period after the Civil War.

In South Carolina 4, incumbent Congressman Bob Inglis trailed his challenger Trey Gowdy by 11% and will face a runoff. Inglis was attacked in this very conservative “upstate” district for his vote for TARP, opposition to ANWR drilling, and opposition to the surge in Iraq, among other areas where he was viewed as straying from the conservative  reservation.

If there is a takeaway from all the races yesterday and in recent weeks, it is that the GOP looks like  a far more diverse party this year than in prior years, with candidates such as Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Tim Scott, Charles Djou, Joseph Cao, Sharron Angle, Joel Pollak, Allen West, and Linda McMahon. The critics of the tea party have accused it, unfairly I think,  of being a hangout for old white males. In reality, some of the tea party-favored candidates have won this year, and some have lost, and most of their preferred candidates have not been old white men.