The contours of this fall's general election continued to take shape on Tuesday, with pivotal primary run-offs in several states. Here's how the votes went in four key races:
1. Nikki Haley, a rising Republican star in South Carolina
State Rep. Nikki Haley won a decisive victory in the GOP's gubernatorial run-off, overcoming accusations of marital infidelity to beat four-term U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Given South Carolina's Republican leanings, Haley is now the favorite to become the state's next governor. "A star is being born before our eyes here," says Allahpundit in Hot Air. Not only is Haley "bound to figure in the GOP’s plans for a State of the Union rebuttal sooner rather than later, but as governor of a key primary state, she’ll be wooed by every major player on the Republican landscape." This is also a win for Sarah Palin, who endorsed Haley, says Frank James at NPR, "as well as Tea Party activists who rallied" to Haley's cause. (Watch Nikki Haley's victory speech)
2. A Tea Party win in Utah
Attorney Mike Lee, a former clerk for Justice Samuel Alito, enjoyed strong support from Tea Party activists in his victory over businessman Tim Bridgewater for the GOP Senate nomination in Utah. Bridgewater had the party's convention nod and the endorsement of the current occupant of the seat, Sen. Bob Bennett, but still only managed 49 percent of the vote to Lee's 51 percent. "This is a clear-cut victory for tea partiers," says David Weigel in The Washington Post. "On most issues, Lee’s and Bridgewater’s stands were almost identical," say the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune. "It was Lee’s bona fides as an anti-Washington ideologue that put him over the top. With his nomination, the tea party has made its voice ring loud."
3. Anti-incumbent fever hits South Carolina
As expected, six-term GOP Rep. Bob Inglis became the fifth member of Congress and third House representative knocked off this year. Inglis lost overwhelmingly to Spartanburg County Prosecutor Trey Gowdy, who managed to turn the vote into a "referendum" on Inglis' "conservative credentials," says Alex Isenstadt in Politico. Inglis' striking defeat — he got just 29 percent of the vote — confirms the incumbent curse of 2010 is still in force, says Patricia Murphy in Politics Daily. But he sure didn't help himself by needlessly antagonizing his base, as he did "when he called for a boycott of Fox News' Glenn Beck."
4. A setback for establishment Democrats in North Carolina
In a troubling sign for Democratic powerbrokers, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall breezed to victory in her state's Senate primary. National Democratic leaders had recruited Marshall's opponent, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, and Marshall went into the race at a funding disadvantage. But she managed to tap into "voter discontent with Washington," say Rob Christensen and Lynn Bonner in the Raleigh News and Observer. Don't read too much into this vote, say the editors of the Charlotte, N.C., Observer. Marshall has been secretary of state for years, and voters merely picked "a familiar face and an experienced public servant" over "a bright but relatively unknown challenger."
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