A Good Night for the Democrats

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 11 2010 7:13 AM

A Good Night for the Democrats

In order for Barack Obama's party to call Tuesday night a "win," a number of things had to happen. Briefly: They needed Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.) to win his nomination, Ken Buck to win the right to oppose him, businessman Dan Maes to win the GOP primary for Colorado governor, congressman Nathan Deal to win the GOP primary for Georgia governor, and someone besides former Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) to win the Democratic nomination for governor of Minnesota.

Most of this happened. Ken Buck eked out a win in Colorado despite a deathless gaffe he made about why voters should support him: "I don't wear high heels." That wasn't enough to save challenger Jane Norton, whom tea party activists never forgave for her support of a 2005 ballot initiative that raised taxes, and who tried to take issue with Buck positions that sat just fine with tea partyers.

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"We have a candidate with real electability problems," one GOP strategist told me, "and a second-placefinisher who demonstrated little ability to run even a second-classcampaign, let alone a competent, modern operation, like the GOP needsto do there. This primary was basically a case of worse and worser, andit's not clear which one we got yet."

We don't know if Maes, Deal, or Dayton will win their races yet, but ifMaes wins, the GOP can't replace him on the ballot -- if rival ScottMcInnis won, he was expected to bow to pressure from a plagiarismscandal and quit the race. If Deal wins, the only member of Congresswho officially requested proof of citizenship from Barack Obama facesthe last Democratic governor of the state, Roy Barnes, who wants hisold job back. If Dayton loses, the Democrats get a candidate they preferred, albeit one with less money to self-fund a campaign.

I haven't mentioned Connecticut, where Republicans Linda McMahon and Tom Foley won the primaries for U.S. Senate and governor, respectively. That's what we expected, going into election night, but Democrats are crowing that neither candidate scored above 50 percent of the vote, despite considerable self-funding. In McMahon's case, 51 percent of Republicans voted for either former congressman Rob Simmons, who quit the race months ago and tentatively got back in at the 11th hour, or economist and Ron Paul supporter Peter Schiff.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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