Utah Primary, North Carolina/South Carolina Runoffs
Tonight, history was made in South Carolina. For the GOP runoff for Governor, state representative Nikki Haley (who is of Indian descent) benefitted in the primary from a backlash against racial slurs used against her (she was referred to as a “rag head”), as well as unproven allegations that she was involved in two extramarital affairs. She led in the GOP primary 49-22% over Congressmen Gresham Barrett, who was booed at a recent Tea Party rally for his support of TARP. Despite GOP attempts to get Barrett to withdraw, he contested the runoff and in the end was inundated by Haley 65-35%.
A House seat in Charleston, South Carolina also made history by giving state Rep. Tim Scott (who is black) a landslide 68-32% victory in the GOP runoff over the son of the late Senator Strom Thurmond. Assuming Rep. Scott is elected this fall, he will become the first black Republican in Congress since J.C. Watts retired in 2002.
There are two common threads to the Haley/Scott runoff victories: (1) their landslide wins in GOP runoffs in the Deep South should put to rest assumptions that minority candidates can’t win in that region, and (2) both of the victorious candidates were endorsed by Sarah Palin, which means that if she were to run for President, she has a headstart on two endorsements in this crucial GOP primary state. These victories also show that, thus far, a Palin endorsement is a good thing to have in a contested GOP primary.
Finally from South Carolina, a Congressional seat in Greenville, South Carolina became the 5th Congressional race (and the 6th race overall) where an incumbent was defeated in his own primary. 12 year Congressional incumbent Bob Inglis (R-South Carolina) was hurt by his TARP vote, and trailed in the GOP primary 28-39%, yet he decided to compete in the June 22 runoff anyway, and lost in a 71-29% landslide. The victor is Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy, who is essentially elected in this 60% McCain district.
North Carolina also had runoffs tonight, one of which was the Democratic runoff for the U.S. Senate. In this race, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall prevailed 60-40% over a more moderate opponent who was the favorite of the White House and Washington Democrats. The more liberal Marshall will face incumbent Republican Senator Richard Burr, whose approval ratings have not been very strong in this fast growing state. Burr also occupies a seat that is essentially jinxed: no incumbent has been re-elected in this seat since 1968.
Meanwhile, in a House primary in Utah, 10 year incumbent Democrat Jim Matheson defeated liberal activist Claudia Wright 68-32% in a race where Democratic activists in this 58% McCain district were unhappy with Matheson for opposing healthcare reform and “cap and trade.” The GOP Senate primary was also contested, as 18 year incumbent Bob Bennett faced the indignity of not even getting sufficient party support to make it onto the GOP primary ballot. He then endorsed businessman Tim Bridgewater, who lost in the primary 52-48% against attorney Mike Lee. Lee will be havily favored in the general election over his Democratic opponent.
As of tonight, 26 states have held their primaries, and Congressional filing has concluded in 41 states. In the short term, things will slow down politically. Though Congressional filing will conclude next month (including the July 7-9 filing period for Louisiana races), the only elections occurring in July will be runoffs in Alabama and primaries in Georgia and Oklahoma. Things will pick back up in August when 12 states hold primaries. In these series of elections, it’s possible that 1-3 Senate incumbents (including Arizona’s John McCain) may join the ranks of those defeated in their own primaries.
Rankings of individual races
As we mentioned last week, we are now in a position to compile and analyze poll results for the 435 House races, 36 Senate races, and 37 Governor’s races where primaries and/or runoffs have been held. Our calls on individual races will be based on the following criteria:
(1) Safe Democratic (dark blue on the map)/Safe Republican (dark red on the map)– either a candidate leads by 10 or more points, or a candidate has over 50% in a composite of recent (we currently define “recent” as the last 28 days)polls;
(2) Lean Democratic (light blue on the map)/Lean Republican (light red on the map) – a candidate leads by 3-9 points;
(3) Tossup (yellow) – a candidate leads by less than 3 points;
(4) No data available/primary has not been held (gray) – until the party nominees have been selected for competitive primaries, we will not be analyzing polls for that race. In other words, we will not be assessing the races in 24 states until (in some cases) mid September;
(5) No Senate/gubernatorial race in 2010 for this state (black);
Generic Congressional Vote
(6/22 poll composite: 44% Republican, 42.2% Democrat)
(6/17 poll composite: 43.8% Republican, 42.4% Democrat)
(6/22 projection: 260 Republicans and 175 Democrats, or Republican gain of +81, with 5 Democrats on “watch list”)
(6/17 projection: 259 Republicans and 176 Democrats, or Republican gain of +80, with 3 Democrats on “watch list”)
Last week, polling data showed that the seats of incumbents Travis Childers (D-Mississippi) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-South Dakota) were in the “safe Republican” category. This week, we are adding the seat of freshman Democrat Glenn Nye (D-Virginia) to the list, as he trails his Republican opponent 35-41% in a recent poll. We therefore are revising our estimate this week to a net GOP pickup of 81 seats. Furthermore, there are now five Democratic seats on the watch list: last week saw three safe Democratic seats with incumbents leading but only polling in the 45-46% range: Heath Shuler (D-North Carolina), David Wu (D-Oregon), and Ben Chandler (D-Kentucky). A poll this week showed 11 year incumbent Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) leading his GOP opponent by only 48-45% in a competitive district stretching from San Antonio to El Paso that only gave Obama 51% of the vote. Over in West Virginia, 34 year Democratic incumbent Nick Rahall only leads his Republican challenger 42-36% in a New Deal Democratic district that gave John McCain 56% of the vote.
(6/22 projection: 55 Democrats, 45 Republicans, or Republican gain of +4)
(6/17 projection: 56 Democrats, 44 Republicans, or Republican gain of +3)
Since last week, we now have polls from North Dakota for the first time since the June 8 primary confirming what we have believed for several months: Republican Governor John Hoeven leads his Democratic opponent 73-19% in an open seat race that is essentially a “gimme” for the Republicans.
Little has changed since last week, although an interesting new poll from Texas shows 10 year GOP incumbent Rick Perry in a tie race against his Democratic challenger. Other recent polls show him in the lead, so overall he leads for now, but we definitely are watching this race for upcoming polls that will either confirm or deny whether this is a competitive race.