That's A Wrap, Folks
How to interpret the 8/24 primaries -- the last ones of the year
Says John Dickerson: "The national lesson from the primaries today is clear: a;sdlfk jp9r;tyh##"
Hewing to my "good analysis is victory agnostic" nostrum, here's what I'm taking away from a night of surprises and triumphs.
One: J.D. Hayworth was a wannabe insurgent who was toppled by his own arrogance. He was too smooth for a year where anyone who sounds like a politician...really, anyone who sounds fairly coherent and talks in crisp, reasonable-sounding, consultant-approved sound bites...is suspect, particularly for Republicans.
Two: Show me a low turnout primary election, and I will raise you polling that just does not capture likely voter enthusiasm swings. But turnout in Alaska was high --- higher, in fact, than expected. I've always wondered how you poll Alaska anyway, and the tightness of the race suggests that models up there aren't working very well. BTW: it's likely that a parental notification ballot initiative drove conservatives to the polls in Alaska, boosting Joe Miller, a Gulf War vet and ally of Sarah Palin's, to striking distance and possible victory over incumbent Lisa Murkowski.
Three: It is fairly clear that the anti-establishment / anti-Washington / pro-radical revolution plankton are feeding more off Republicans than off Democrats. As the year has unfolded, it has become easier and easier for formerly fringe candidates to find funding sources, get key "outsider" endorsements and shock complacent frontrunners. When it comes to the Tea Party factor, remember: about issues it ain't. Bill McCollum was one of the attorneys general who filed a lawsuit against Obama's health care reform bill. He is as conservative as a Blackberry at an Apple convention. But he has ties to the state's now-discredited Republican establishment (think of the indictment of the former party chairman) and his avuncular, amiable, comfortable-as-a-leather shoe style just doesn't fit with the times. Rick Scott didn't need the money, but the Tea Party Express helped him build a volunteer base. In Alaska, the same group ponied up $500,000 to help Miller (probably) defeat an incumbent U.S. senator.
Four: For the four statewide races in Florida, 5 Republicans turned out for every four Democrats. 500,000 Florida Republicans chose as their gubernatorial nominee someone who the Democratic Party can easily label a "corrupt health care CEO" and not get sued for libel. Note: Sink outpolled Scott by 75,000. Obviously, a large chunk of the 500,000 Republicans who voted for Bill McCollum (last seen on Fox News, 24 hours a day) will enthusiastically support their new nominee, but Sink begins the general election, even in a Republican year, with a lead. Health care will be a major part of her race because Scott claims credit for running ads that substantially slowed down the progress of the Congressional debate and because of his own record. Scott begins the general election with a pot of gold. Democrats will need to spend money to pick up a seat that could well determine how Florida is redistricted next year, which means that the White House and Congressional Democrats have a stake in what happens.
More Republicans voted for Marco Rubio than Democrats did for all four Senate candidates combined, an ominous and unsurprising sign that enough Democrats are probably going to align themselves with Charlie Crist so that Crist wins or Rubio walks away with the seat.
Five: in Alaska, Sarah Palin's endorsement does seem to matter. It's not like no one predicted that Joe Miller could be the next senator; former Gov. Tony Knowles told me a month ago that Murkowski was not taking Miller seriously and that he could easily organize a campaign to beat her in the primary. Absentees won't be fully counted for a while, but Miller's victory can be reasonably inferred from the outstanding ballots.