Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Halter falters, and other notes from last night

Heading into Super Tuesday, Blanche Lincoln looked like a political goner. The embattled Democratic senator was down in the polls and the target of millions of dollars in TV ads and get-out-the-vote efforts in Arkansas from labor unions and other liberal advocacy groups looking to unseat her. But with the help of former President Bill Clinton, who appeared in a last-minute TV ad on her behalf, Lincoln defied the odds, besting her challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, 52 percent to 48 percent.

The progressives -- MoveOn, DailyKos, -- as well as the unions mobilized and came up short. This one tastes bad.

Still, Lincoln's victory celebration will be short-lived. In a state that has steadily moved to the right in recent elections, she faces an uphill battle to win re-election this November. Recent polls show her losing to the GOP challenger, Rep. John Boozman, by double digits.

Normally, a Democrat in Lincoln's situation would be able to depend on outside groups for election help, but many of the usual suspects, like the Service Employees International Union and League of Conservation Voters, cast their lots against her in the primary. Will those groups reverse position and lend support to the woman they tried to defeat?

No, we won't. As Barbara Morrill says:

Look for this to be a Republican pick-up in November.

The White House -- !?@*#!? -- is already kicking the unions when they're down. That's some shit, idn't it? kos:

The GOP establishment tries to nominate electable candidates, and gets sabotaged by the teabaggers. We're trying to nominate electable candidates, and we get sabotaged by the Democratic Party establishment.

All righty then. On to the Great West. First, California.

The Golden State's political history is clear: centrist Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson (a moderate before he became an anti-immigrant demagogue) can win statewide elections. Right-wing Republicans cannot. The state is just too culturally liberal and too ethnically diverse. This year, GOP primary voters could have chosen a slightly dull, highly wonky, pro-choice former congressman named Tom Campbell. Campbell, according to a recent Los Angeles Times poll, would have led incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer by seven points in the general election. Instead, they chose former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who opposes the right to abortion, can't decide if global warming is real, won the endorsement of Sarah Palin, and according to the Times poll, trails Boxer by the same margin Campbell leads her. Fiorina didn't win the GOP Senate primary only because she is more conservative; she also bought it with her vast personal wealth. But her combination of conservatism and inexperience gives Boxer a chance to sneak back into office.

Fiorina wasn't the only former CEO who won a Republican primary last night. Mark McKinnon from the Daily Beast (who's only occasionally insipid):

In the California governor’s race, Meg Whitman’s victory over state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner places her in a faceoff against the quintessential career politician -- Jerry Brown, governor of California from 1975 to 1983, then mayor of Oakland and now the state attorney general. In the run-up to the primary, Brown sat on his campaign coffers waiting for the definitive insider-outsider battle to begin.

Whitman, who made history at the helm of eBay generating $8 billion in revenues, has said she is prepared to spend as much as $150 million to reach California’s 38 million residents. Those deep pockets will be necessary with statewide ads running $3 million a week.

More from HuffPo:

It also will set off an election season of big-money campaigns and high drama in the nation's most populous state, pitting two deep-pocketed Silicon Valley business stars against stalwarts of the Democratic Party establishment. ...

 The heated battle with Poizner to win over conservative GOP primary voters forced Whitman to move to the right on issues such as abortion and illegal immigration, moves that could hurt her against Brown in November.

Democrats and moderate independents comprise two-thirds of the electorate in California. Without a serious primary challenger, Brown has positioned himself as a moderate, pledging not to raise taxes and to make the kind of spending cuts that Whitman also campaigned on.

California is going to have almost as much fun as we are here in Deep-In-The-Hearta.

The Teabagger ladies won in Nevada ...

Exhibit B: Nevada, where everyone agrees that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is extremely vulnerable. But perhaps not quite vulnerable enough to lose to Sharron Angle, a woman who wants to abolish social security, the department of education and the income tax. Reid did his best to make Angle his opponent, spending heavily to undermine the more moderate GOP frontrunner, Sue Lowden. It seems to have worked. Angle is the perfect symbol of the Republican base in 2010: She's a fresh face; she enjoys grassroots support, and she wants to repeal the handiwork not just of Franklin Roosevelt, but of Theodore Roosevelt.

.. and South Carolina. Indeed, another Indo-American with an Americanized name and a changed religion (can you name the other one?) became the "new face" of Southern conservative extremism:

In what will no doubt go down in history as one of the nation's nastiest political primaries, Nikki Haley survived multiple allegations of marital infidelity to win the most votes in South Carolina's hotly contested GOP gubernatorial race. But initial vote totals show that she didn't garner enough support  to avoid what could be an even wilder June 22 runoff election. ...

With the runoff  just two weeks away, the most immediate question is whom (her vanquished GOP primary opponents) Bauer and McMaster will throw their support to. Bauer, for his part, was associated with one of the affair rumors that circulated about Haley — though he denied involvement, even to the point of submitting to a lie-detector test. McMaster was quoted this week calling the primary a total embarrassment. Will the tawdry rumors about Haley's marriage live on through the runoff?

More likely, the focus will turn to Haley's actual politics and policy stands. Though she's been championed by the tea party movement, Haley is extremely close to disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford — whose own infidelity has made him a political outcast in the state. Though she has positioned herself as an outsider, Haley was viewed as Sanford's political heir apparent and is even being advised by many of his former key campaign aides. One of her big early endorsements came from Sanford's estranged wife, Jenny.

For her part, Haley has gone to great lengths to avoid being associated with Sanford. Asked earlier this week by CNN's Peter Hamby if she's sought political advice from Sanford, Haley at first said she hadn't. But then later, she admitted they had talked "a couple of times" — and even then, she quickly added, never "on policy advice or strategy."

It doesn't even matter who the Democratic opponent is, does it? This is South Carolina, after all.

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