Tuesday's party primaries were great for women, Tea Party candidates, and — in an upset of the 2010 conventional wisdom — incumbents. Even as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows "anti-incumbent sentiment at an all-time high," with just 29 percent of voters inclined to vote for their current House representative, sitting legislators fought back viable challenges in New Jersey, Montana, Virginia, and, most notably, Arkansas. (Watch an AP report about women winning primaries.) Here's a look at the six biggest races, and what commentators are saying about them:
1. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) stays alive
Lincoln's narrow win over more liberal challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is a victory for the White House over organized labor, says Ben Smith in Politico, since labor unions, according to a senior White House aide, "flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet" on Halter. Fine, but it's a "Pyrric victory," says Jed Lewison at Daily Kos, since only a "fool" thinks Lincoln will keep the seat for Democrats in November. No, it's "silly to think that Halter could have won" the general election in conservative Arkansas, says Nate Silver at FiveThrityEight. If Lincoln can keep up the trick of being perceived as the independent "underdog," she has a shot at winning.
2. South Carolina's Nikki Haley prevails, but faces a runoff
Haley's 2-to-1 win over her nearest opponent in South Carolina's vicious GOP race for governor wasn't enough to avoid a runoff, but it's still pretty remarkable, says Jonathan Alter in Newsweek. "If someone had told me a few years ago that the next governor of South Carolina was almost certainly going to be an Indian-American woman accused of cheating on her husband, I’d have said they were high." It's also great diversity PR for Southern Republicans, says The Economist. If she wins, as expected, Haley (born Nimrata Randhawa) will "join Bobby Jindal [R-LA] as the nation's second governor of Indian descent."
3. Tea Partier Sharron Angle wins in Nevada
"There's only one person happier than Sharron Angle" in Nevada, says Evan McMorris-Santoro in Talking Points Memo, "and that's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid," who will face the Tea Party–backed Republican in November. Angle is Reid's best shot to keep his seat, says Jim Geraghty in National Review, since it won't be hard for him to paint this "supremely flawed candidate" as "a beer-banning, felon-massaging, tax-hiking, FEC scofflaw." Angle has her "significant warts," like all the GOP candidates in the race, says Sean Trende in RealClearPolitics, but "in polling terms, Reid is a dead man walking no matter who he faces."
4. Republican Carly Fiorina wins in California
Fiorina won the GOP race to challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) by positioning herself as a Sarah Palin–style "staunch conservative," says the San Jose Mercury News. Some of that right-wing rhetoric may haunt her in the months ahead though, especially her dismissal of climate change as "the weather." Well, I was rooting for a "genuine conservative" to win, says Donald Douglas in American Power. Fiorina's not that, but she is "a fighter — super intelligent, fast on her feet" — and those are qualities that will help against Boxer.
5. Republican Meg Whitman wins in California
Ex-eBay CEO Whitman's easy, and expensive, win in the Republican primary for governor at least sets up a clear choice for California voters, says Maggie Haberman in Politico: Do they trust "wealthy ex-business executives, or long-serving Democratic office holders" like Whitman's Democratic rival, Attorney General Jerry Brown? In the coming Whitman-Brown "slugfest," say Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle, the advantage has to go to billionaire Whitman, since she's already spent $71 million of her own money on the primary and says she'll spend $70 million more to fill Brown "full of lead."
6. Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) becomes a lame duck
Gibbons' defeat to GOP rival Brian Sandoval is "historic," say Benjamin Spillman and Ed Vogel in the Las Vegas Journal-Review, since it makes him the first incumbent Nevada governor upset in a primary. But it wasn't unexpected. With a public, messy divorce and allegations of infidelity and assaulting a cocktail waitress, Gibbons had "too much personal baggage to continue in office." While Nikki Haley's success in South Carolina shows that "charges of infidelity aren't what they used to be," says John Dickerson in Slate, Gibbons proves that "there are standards," even in the home state to Las Vegas.