Victories by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other establishment Republicans in Senate primary elections on Tuesday represented "a continual and continuing repudiation of the tea party," Democratic pollster and analyst Doug Schoen told Newsmax.
"These results, taken together, continue to be the establishment wing of the Republican Party saying that they want to be as practical as possible this year," Schoen said in an interview late Tuesday. "Obviously, Mitch McConnell's victory is a huge repudiation of the tea party."
He then referenced the Georgia primary battle that will pit two establishment candidates — Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue — against each other in a July 22 runoff.
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Kingston has served 11 terms in the House, while Perdue is the former CEO of Dollar General. That winner faces Democrat Michelle Nunn in November. She handily won her primary Tuesday. All are vying to replace retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
"This is good news for the Republican Party, and it means that the Georgia race will be very competitive," Schoen said. "It means McConnell will be as strong as a weakened incumbent can be going into the general election — and this is about as good news as the Republican Party could have gotten."
McConnell, 72, who soared past tea party-backed businessman Matt Bevin in his Kentucky primary race, will face former Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who won the Democratic primary Tuesday.
Early polls have shown both candidates with virtually equal support. McConnell is seeking his sixth term.
Bevin spent more than $3.3 million of his own money in the primary race. He also received more than $1 million from such outside groups such as the Madison Project and the Senate Conservatives Fund, both of which congratulated McConnell on his victory and called for party unity in November.
Three other candidates were on the Kentucky GOP primary ballot.
Establishment Republicans also won Senate primaries in Arkansas and Idaho. In Oregon, political newcomer Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon who has received broad support from Washington Republicans, won her primary race over state Rep. Jason Conger.
In Pennsylvania, incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett won the Republican primary.
Meanwhile, Perdue and Kingston remained neck and neck throughout most of the night in the Georgia contest — with former Secretary of State Karen Handel remaining solidly in third place.
Handel had been backed in recent weeks by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Pennsylvania Gov. Rick Santorum.
Kingston, who was endorsed by Newsmax, led in the early returns — pulling ahead of the seven-candidate field with as much as 37 percent of the vote, to Perdue's 28 percent, within a half-hour of the polls closing. Handel had about 14 percent of the early vote.
Perdue then pulled slightly ahead of Kingston as the hour neared — and he and Kingston remained nearly split throughout the night, as Handel remained solidly in third place, before the former CEO pulled ahead.
Recent polls had Kingston trailing Perdue, but he seemed to perform better in Tuesday's election as it soon became clear that Handel's share of the vote would not hold up to expectations.
In an interview as the votes were being counted, Kingston told Newsmax that he was confident of finishing second place.
"We feel good about where we are now," he said. "We feel very good about the situation."
He looked forward to battling Nunn in November. She is the daughter of longtime Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn.
"Georgia is a state that votes Republican," Kingston told Newsmax. "It’s a 52-to-54 percent Republican state. While Michelle Nunn is trying to reinvent herself as some center-moderate, I don't think Georgia voters are going to buy it."
Kingston then referenced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who has been accused by Republicans of creating massive gridlock in the chamber.
"They know the first vote she has is for Harry Reid — and she's going to do everything she can to keep Obamacare going, which is something that Georgia voters don't believe in," he said of Nunn.
For his part, a Perdue spokesman told Newsmax late Tuesday that "Georgia Republicans sent a message tonight that they are concerned about the mess we have in Washington, and they are looking for an alternative to the typical politicians.
"David is an outsider with the right experience," the spokesman, Derrick Dickey, said in a statement. "He gives the voters a clear choice in this runoff."
Looking ahead to the Georgia contests, Schoen also referenced the Peach State's Republican legacy — though with a caveat.
"Georgia is an operationally Republican state — and all other things being equal, the Republicans in a Republican year in a Republican state should win."
However, "the party's been divided seven ways in the first primary," he added. "Second, the tea party's not in the runoff. Third, there's going to be a divisive fight between two establishment-wing people.
"While it's better that the establishment wing fight it out than the tea party and the establishment wing, it leaves the tea party out. The party will have five or six months to get it together."
Even still, Schoen told Newsmax that November is too close to call right now.
"Though Michelle Nunn is a strong candidate, I rate the seat — given everything — a toss-up, 50-50, and I think it will be a very close election ultimately."
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