Lincoln pulls it out. Angle on pace to face Harry Reid. Fiorina and Whitman cruise -- and so do the Lakers
11:46 p.m.: We’re going to call it a night here. It looks like Angle is pulling away and will be the Republican nominee in Nevada — Harry Reid’s dream scenario. (Of course, given what a dreadful campaign she waged, you could argue that Lowden might be just as beatable.) We’ll have plenty of all of tonight’s fallout tomorrow on Salon.
11:27 p.m.: The fun now shifts to Nevada and California. Although California looks academic already; with four percent of the vote in, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman have both opened enormous leads — more than 100,000 votes — in their respective GOP primaries. The Nevada GOP Senate primary is the real barn-burner. With 15 percent of the vote in, Sharron Angle is three points ahead of Sue Lowden, who (at least early on) is faring better than most expected. Danny Tarkanian, who had overtaken Lowden for second in some pre-primary polls, is a distant third, with about 20 percent.
11:07 p.m.: As you’ve probably seen by now, Blanche Lincoln has been declared the winner. (Keith Olbermann actually made the announcement by interrupting a guest who was trying to say that there were still lots of votes outstanding and that Halter still had a chance.) Lincoln will clearly be the underdog in November against Republican John Boozman. But who knows now? No one thought she’d survive tonight.
10:42 p.m.: This is feeling a little like Hillary/Obama in New Hampshire all over again. I just need to hear Halter’s people assuring me that the student areas still aren’t in.
10:38 p.m.: At the Cook Political Report, analyst Dave Wasserman (who tracks House races for Cook, but is generally pretty sharp on election data in any kind of election) tells his Twitter followers that he thinks Blanche Lincoln will hang on to beat Bill Halter in Arkansas. Halter had gone ahead earlier after some returns came in from Pulaski County, but Wasserman notes that the numbers seem to have been reported incorrectly by the AP (and in fact, the latest update on Politico’s tracking site has Lincoln ahead again, 51.2 to 48.8 percent). In several places, Lincoln is doing better than she did in the May 18 primary.
Did the massive spending by unions help Lincoln turn herself into the embattled Arkansan, under fire from the powerful outside forces that control Washington? In essence, over the last couple of weeks, Lincoln tried to seize the outsider mantle from Halter — not an easy trick, for an incumbent seeking a third six-year Senate term.
10:36 p.m.: That didn’t last long. Lincoln has regained the lead and is now up by 4,500 votes, with about two-thirds of precincts reporting. Pulaski County, the state’s largest county (home of Little Rock), seems crucial. You can track the county’s returns here.
10:28 p.m.: For the first time tonight, Bill Halter has pulled ahead in Arkansas. With just under 60 percent of precincts reporting, he now leads by about 3,000 votes — a 51 to 49 percent spread.
10:24 p.m.: Chris Matthews sometimes says some strange things, but it’s hard not to endorse his line just now on Orly Taitz, the Birther-in-Chief who wants to become California secretary of state (presumably so she can bring some serious ammo to her loony quest to prove that President Obama was actually born on Mars): “There’s something really crazy about this person.”
10:14 p.m.: Lincoln’s lead is down to two points now; 45 percent of the vote in.
10:02 p.m.: Polls in Nevada are still closed. And Halter is drawing closer in Arkansas — he trails by 4,000 votes (a margin of about 4 percent) with just under 40% of the vote in.
9:47 p.m.: I’m wondering if Gresham Barrett will end up pulling an Anthony Weiner here.
Weiner, you may remember, was (initially) eligible to participate in a Democratic runoff for mayor of New York back in ’05, when the preliminary vote leader, Fernando Ferrer, finished just a sliver short of the magic 40% number. Realizing that he was probably doomed in a runoff, Weiner declined to compete further, saying he wanted to unite the party. The ploy netted him some friendly headlines and goodwill within the party, which offered more longer term value to Weiner than a futile two-week runoff campaign would have. (After Weiner made his move, a new tabulation put Ferrer over 40%, so Weiner’s move ended up being officially meaningless.)
Barrett is similarly doomed in South Carolina. The AP is now declaring that Nikki Haley will finish just shy of 50% in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Barrett is an extremely distant second, with 21% right now. He has essentially no chance of winning a runoff. Why not get out now and look magnanimous?
9:36 p.m.: If you’re tracking the results in Arkansas, here are some of the counties you want to keep an eye on, according to Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas and director of the school’s Arkansas Poll. Watch Washington County — in the northwest corner, where Fayetteville and the university are — and nearby Benton County; Lincoln won both big in the May 18 vote, and she’ll need to match her margins to do well tonight. The real big area to watch, though, is Pulaski County, home of Little Rock, and the seven counties surrounding it. Lincoln won Pulaski 52 to 39 last month, and D.C. Morrison took nearly 8 percent. In fact, Lincoln won all of the Little Rock area counties by fairly large margins last time — and if she doesn’t do the same again tonight, she’s in trouble.
Unfortunately, for now, results are trickling in too slowly to know much. At 9:36 p.m., for instance, Lincoln was leading Halter in Washington County — by a count of 687 to 567.
9:34 p.m.: About 10 percent of the vote is in now and Blanche Lincoln is up by six over Bill Halter in Arkansas. Ed Schultz might be getting nervous.
9:21 p.m.: A nail-biter in South Carolina. Not between Nikki Haley and any of her opponents, though, but between Haley and the magic 50% mark. With two-thirds of the votes counted, she’s sitting at 48.4% — still not enough to avoid a runoff, but better than she was doing earlier. If she does fall short of 50%, it looks like Rep. Gresham Barrett, who now holds a 10,000-vote lead in the race for second place, will be her runoff opponent.
9:00 p.m.: Earlier, I said to keep an eye on New Jersey’s 3rd District, where Republicans have high hopes of ousting freshman Democrat John Adler in the fall. This is precisely the kind of district they need to win if they are to take back the House. But with 25% of the GOP primary vote in, the party establishment’s candidate — ex-Philadelphia Eagles lineman Jon Runyan — is leading his foe, Justin Murphy, by just ten points. This despite the fact that Murphy raised just $13,000 for this campaign, to Runyan’s $225,000.
8:57 p.m.: On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann is interviewing correspondent Lawrence O’Donnell, who’s sitting in the NBC News Los Angeles bureau, about whether Orly Taitz can win the GOP nomination for California secretary of state. In the background, though, the TV in the newsroom is very clearly showing ABC’s coverage of the NBA Finals. Which, if some more election returns don’t start coming in soon, I might be tempted to flip to, as well.
8:47 p.m.: Returns from Arkansas are starting to come in, very slowly.
8:39 p.m.: Republican Tom Graves is heading to Congress, winning a special election for a House seat in Georgia vacated when Rep. Nathan Deal resigned to run for governor. The only real news there, though, is the actual name of the Republican who won the seat — the Democratic candidate in the race, Mike Freeman, had already been eliminated in an earlier vote last month. (None of the six Republicans, nor the lone independent, in the race got 50 percent, sending it to a runoff.)
8:30 p.m.: One of the most heavily targeted freshmen Democrats in the House, Rep. Tom Perriello, now knows who he’ll face in November. Republicans in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District have nominated state Sen. Robert Hurt, who already represents a third of Perriello’s constituents in Richmond. The GOP was excited about the result, with National Republican Congressional Committee aides e-mailing reporters to call Hurt a “top Republican recruit.”
But independent Jeff Clark, running to Hurt’s left, plans to run a Tea Party-inspired campaign for the seat as well. And the GOP has to consolidate after a bitter, divisive primary that saw five candidates running. Virginia Democrats tried to play up Hurt’s own vulnerabilities after he won the nomination; some conservatives in the state haven’t forgotten about Hurt’s vote to raise taxes a few years ago. “Tonight, 5th district Republicans nominated a career politican with a record of saying anything to get elected as their candidate for Congress,” the Virginia Democratic Party e-mailed reporters. That’s at least one part spin, aimed at November, but expect to hear the same sort of thing until then — especially since Perriello has prided himself on telling voters what they need to hear, not always what they want to hear.
8:20 p.m.: About 20 percent of the votes are counted in South Carolina. It’s clear that Nikki Haley will finish in first place; she’s at 43 percent right now, exactly where the final polls had her. But it’s also looking like she’ll be short of 50 percent, the number she needs to avoid a runoff. Gresham Barrett, a four-term congressman, is in second place with 25 percent, but the returns so far seem to be coming disproportionately from his neck of the woods. Attorney General Henry McMaster is in third with 18 percent right now.
8:04 p.m.: Polls now closed in Maine and New Jersey.
In Maine, both parties are having wide open gubernatorial primaries. 7 Republicans and 4 Democrats are vying to replace John Baldacci, who is being term-limited out. A recent poll found no one in either party’s primary polling above 20 percent.
In New Jersey, there are a few House primaries worth watching. The most interesting may be in the South Jersey-based 3rd District, a historically Republican jurisdiction that was won — narrowly — by Democrat John Adler in 2008. Jon Runyan, a former Philadelphia Eagles player, is expected to win the GOP nod, but his fund-raising has been overwhelming. His primary foe, Justin Murphy, has even less money, but performed surprisingly well in the ’08 Republican primary. Runyan should win, but his margin will be telling.
There’s also a GOP primary in the Shore-area 6th District, which has been represented for 22 years by Democrat Frank Pallone. Pallone should be safe in the fall, but Diane Gooch, a self-funding millionaire, could give him fits. But Gooch must first get past Anna Little, a small-town mayor and former county official who is trying to channel Tea Party support.
7:53 p.m.: The conversation on Hardball (a tape of the 5:00 show, I think) is about Carly Fiorina’s decision to run as a pro-life candidate in California. Matthews doesn’t get it — California is very liberal culturally, he notes, so won’t this kill her in the general election? I get the logic, but I can’t help thinking of New Jersey, another bastion of social liberalism where it was long assumed that the GOP could only win with pro-choicers. And yet Chris Christie was able to run as a pro-lifer last fall and win by the second biggest margin for a Republican in 37 years. There are a lot of reasons why Fiorina, assuming she wins the GOP nod tonight, might lose in the fall against Barbara Boxer. I’m just not sure abortion is one of them. Maybe in a different climate, but not right now.
7:06 p.m.: Primary voters have been casting ballots in 12 states today, and we’ll be here tonight keeping tabs on all of the returns. The biggest news at this hour is that polls are now closed in South Carolina, where Nikki Haley is expected to finish first in the four-way GOP gubernatorial primary. The suspense is over whether she’ll crack the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff — and if she doesn’t, which of her opponents will advance to face her in the June 22 runoff.
For now, things are quiet. Polls in Arkansas, Nevada and California — where the day’s marquee Senate contests are taking place — won’t be closed until later. The best source for tracking the numbers as they come in is probably Politico’s interactive election map.
Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon. Reach him by email at SKornacki@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveKornacki More Steve Kornacki.
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