It was 700 years ago today that Scottish forces, led by Robert the Bruce, routed the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. Today, with slightly less at stake, the Scots-Irish Senate candidate Chris McDaniel is expected to clinch a second-round victory against Sen. Thad Cochran, making this the third consecutive election cycle in which an incumbent Republican senator is ousted by the conservative grassroots.
Dramatic enough, anyway. Below you’ll find a guide to tonight’s elections.
7 p.m. Polls close in South Carolina’s runoff election, which stopped being interesting for everyone outside the state once Lindsey Graham won his first-round primary victory. It was a thrilling, Tea Party-defying win, swiftly relegated to the back pages by the defeat of Eric Cantor. This would be a good time to eat dinner or watch the Italy-Uruguay game you TIVO’d, but if you’re a true junkie, watch the Republican runoffs for lieutenant governor (pitting the son of former Gov. Carroll Campbell against the recently luckless former Attorney General Henry McMaster) or the runoffs for state superindendent of education. The last statewide office held by a Democrat, it’s being eyed by Sally “widow of Lee” Atwater, who has a great political name and not much else.
Results will be here.
8 p.m. Polls close in Maryland, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, and the D.C. press corps’ attention is on the races farthest from its suburban homes. To beat Sen. Thad Cochran, challenger Chris McDaniel need only win perhaps 150,000 votes. (This map of the June 3 primary is useful for watching where McDaniel needs to improve.) To survive, Cochran needs to … well, get more votes, a process that might involve a rare surge of black Republican votes from the Mississippi Delta or the city of Jackson. Cochran’s campaign argues that the “reach out and expand the electorate” theory isn’t the only one that gets it to a win. True! So watch whose strongholds turn out—McDaniel’s Jones County cast about 13,000 votes in the first round, and Cochran closed the gap with a surge from Hinds County (Jackson). The media’s expecting McDaniel to win, and so are pollsters, but remember how everybody did with that in Virginia.
Oklahoma has stubbornly refused to offer the media an “establishment versus Tea Party” storyline. (Good.) The primary to replace Sen. Tom Coburn, who’s retiring two years early, is largely between former State House Speaker T.W. Shannon and Rep. James Lankford. Shannon is part black and part Chickasaw, and was endorsed quickly by Tea Party leaders (Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz) who want their party to look more diverse. Lankford is 100 percent ginger, and has been blasted from the right for daring to work with party leadership—an argument that Coburn has broken his neutrality to rebut. Meanwhile, Shannon is closing by attacking Lankford on his support for a citizenship path for “illegal immigrants who are children.”
Polling has been sparse, with Lankford (who always had a cash-on-hand lead) starting in the lead, slipping, then surging back. But if neither Shannon nor Lankford cracks 50 percent, they head to a runoff. Given how many kook candidates are on the ballot (I’m fond of this guy’s Photoshop skills), and given the presence of 2010 gubernatorial nominee Randy Brogdon, it’s likely that Shannon and Lankford head to an August runoff. Down the ballot, there might be a runoff for Lankford’s safe Republican seat in the House (read Molly Redden on the rich 27-year-old who’s trying to buy it.)
To Maryland, where a hot Democratic primary for governor has been waged among a black Iraq war veteran/lieutenant governor, a lesbian state representative, and a bro attorney general. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who’d be Maryland’s first (and the nation’s third) elected black governor, seized a lead at the start of this race and never gave it up. Attorney General Doug Gansler, who might be the least well-liked (by insiders) of anyone on the ballot today, battered Brown over the failure of Maryland’s health care exchange, only to find that voters did not blame the guy for it. Heather Mizeur ran to the left, pledging to make Maryland the third state that would legalize (and tax) marijuana.
Really, though—we’re talking about Maryland. It’s awfully tough to convince an electorate that may be about 37 percent black (that was the proportion in 2008’s Obama-Clinton primary) to see its first potential black governor and say, “Yeah, well, he wasn’t very good at website maintenance.” Brown will win; Maryland has no runoffs.
Mississippi results will be here; Oklahoma results will be here; Maryland results, here. Oh, and in Florida’s 19th District, vacated by the fun-loving (and more problematically, cocaine-loving) Trey Radel, Republican businessman Curt Clawson will easily win.
9 p.m. Polls close in Colorado and New York, and for once we have a state where the Tea Party and the establishment have learned to play together.
Spoiler: It’s Colorado. Earlier this year, in a remarkable outburst of reason and cooperation, Rep. Cory Gardner jumped into the primary to face Sen. Mark Udall. The reasons were many—the nadir of Obamacare, a perfect backlash to the state’s post-Newtown gun laws (which led to the surprise defeats of two Democratic state senators in recalls), sagging poll numbers for all Democrats. Gardner only wanted to run if the field was cleared, and cleared it shortly was, with 2010 nominee Ken Buck switching to the race for Gardner’s safe House seat. There, he faces Steve Laffey, a 2006 proto-Tea Party candidate for Senate—he lost a primary to Sen. Lincoln Chafee—who has relocated to Colorado.
The only real action is in the Republican gubernatorial primary, where the aforementioned optimism surge got 2006 nominee Bob Beauprez into the race, leaving Secretary of State Scott Gessler and Tom Tancredo—yes, him—to rebrand themselves as underdogs. (Gessler was one of the first candidates to react to Cantor’s defeat with a fundraising email pronouncing himself the next David Brat.)
Back on the East Coast, New York is host to a bunch of House primaries that have sorted themselves into interest group tests. The most media attention has gone to NY-13, where Rep. Charlie Rangel’s complete loss of clout has not spurred him to retire yet. In 2012 he defeated state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (who’d be the first Dominican-American member of Congress) by only 1,086 votes out of 43,170 cast, and actually lost the part of the district that dips into the Bronx.* Very limited public polling has given Rangel a lead, which he’s celebrated by mocking Espaillat for expecting his racial heritage to boost him into Congress.
The rest of the primary action is all on the Republican side. Just four years ago, the party was shocked when businessman Carl Paladino overcame Rick Lazio and became the party’s laughingstock gubernatorial nominee. Big money is trying to prevent more of that. In NY-21, the sprawling upstate seat won by retiring Rep. Bill Owens after the original Tea Party-establishment civil war, American Crossroads is trying to prevent frequent candidate Matt Doheny from blowing a GOP pickup opportunity.
- In NY-22, PACs like the Susan B. Anthony List are backing Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney against incumbent Rep. Richard Hanna. The Chamber of Commerce backs Hanna, even though whoever wins the primary faces no Democratic opponent.
- In NY-1, a perennial Republican target, the American Action Network is trying to prevent “Pelosi Republican” George Demos from being the establishment-preferred state Sen. Lee Zeldin.
- And in NY-3, failed 2010 Senate candidate Bruce Blakeman is mildly preferred (by said establishment) over Frank Scaturro, who lost two races to Rep. Carolyn McCarthy before she retired. (Kathleen Rice, the favorite to win the Democratic nod and succeed McCarthy, would give EMILY’s List a needed 2014 trophy.)
10 p.m. Polls close in Utah, where there’s little to watch, as most nominations have been decided already in party conventions. That’ll never happen again—in one of my favorite 2014 establishment campaigns, an alliance of bitter Republicans succeeded in ending the convention system and forcing open primaries from here on out. Too late to save Sen. Bob Bennett, who lost his seat at the 2010 conventions, but successful on its own terms.
UPDATE 3:55 p.m. I'm starting the updates before the polls close because this Chris Cillizza post gets at the essential cluelessness—and helplessness—of the save-Cochran campaign. According to Cillizza, it might have been a mistake for Cochran's team to sit on a TV ad that played back clips of Chris McDaniel calling theoretical Mexican women "Mamacita" and joking about an Alabama candidate who was "running on her boobies." (She was, by the way.)
The spot details a number of impolitic -- to say the least -- statements made by McDaniel while he was hosting a radio show called "The Right Side" in the mid 2000s. (BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski did yeoman's work uncovering some of the radio broadcasts, although Cochran allies warn there are hundreds of hours of McDaniel tapes that have yet to be released.)
First off: There are "hundreds of hours" of tape? Well, what was the Cochran campaign waiting for? The 2020 primary? Why not pay a researcher to grab more tape?
Second, Cochran had actually been hitting McDaniel with these exact quotes for two months before the primary, ever since BuzzFeed and the Wall Street Journal reported them. An innovative super PAC mailer showed up at Republicans' doors with a chip that played the clips when the card was opened. The argument in that mailer, explicitly, was that McDaniel's loose tongue would make him another Todd Akin. That simply misunderstood what made Akin toxic. He said, and maintained, that women could not possibly get pregnant from "legitimate rape" because their bodies would "shut it down"—i.e., women who got pregnant were clearly open to having sex at that moment. In what universe is joking that you've called Mexican women "mamacita" as offensive as all that?
Third, and finally, the decision to hang "mamacita" and "boobies" around McDaniel's neck revealed something by omission. McDaniel had also written (not talked) about black people looting in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, chastening them that "unless you live in Detroit, the basic necessities of life do not include big screen plasma TV's, Randy Moss jerseys, Air Jordan sneakers or any type of 'bling-bling.' "
To my knowledge that comment never made it into an anti-McDaniel ad. Maybe it wouldn't have played with Republican voters?
UPDATE 8:01: Twitter updates much more quickly than this blog, so I'll embed my tweets here.
*Correction, June 24, 2014: This post originally misspelled New York state Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s first name.