GOP Optimistic Primaries Will Deliver Victories for Senate Takeover

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 12:56 PM

By Melanie Batley

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Establishment Republicans are optimistic that the results of Tuesday's Senate primaries in three closely-watched states will deliver the right candidates to defeat Democrats in November, bringing the party one step closer to taking control of the Senate.

Hard fought primaries in Kentucky, Georgia, and Oregon have been the focus of national politics as pundits pitted races against the backdrop of the tea party vs. establishment that set the tone  during the government shutdown.

"It's a victory for the pragmatic common-sense conservatives who are the majority of the Republican Party, who are more interested in winning a majority than falling on their sword and losing," GOP strategist Brian Walsh, a former National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director, told The Hill.

Kentucky

The most closely watched contest Tuesday is the primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Polls indicate he looks set for a landslide victory over tea party businessman Matt Bevin, but pundits say it's the margin that could make all the difference between victory or defeat in November.

Recent polls predict McConnell could win by 20 or 30 percent, according to The Washington Post.

But observers say a significant turnout for Bevin on Tuesday would indicate a rough road ahead for McConnell in the general election when he will face off against Kentucky Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a self-described "Bill Clinton Democrat," with Clinton support already backing her.

"If more than 40 percent of the GOP primary electorate is against [McConnell] now, who's to say how many of them will come out for McConnell in November?" the Post said. "Plus, there's the symbolic element. McConnell wants to be in a position of strength Wednesday on day one of the general election."

A poll from Friday by Surveys USA's showed that a match-up between McConnell and Lundergan Grimes is currently too close to call with Grimes at 43 percent and McConnell at 42 percent.

Georgia

In the open seat in Georgia to replace retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the one factor that appears certain in what the Post described as a "wildly predictable and increasingly nasty" race, is that none of the five contenders will secure the needed 50 percent support to avoid a run-off in July between the top two vote getters.

Businessman David Perdue, who is making his first foray into public service, is currently polling up to 10 percent higher than Chamber of Commerce-backed Rep. Jack Kingston. Kingston looks to be competing for second place with former secretary of state Karen Handel who is a favorite of Sarah Palin, the Post reported.

If Perdue goes on to be the nominee, the Post added, odds of securing a victory in November could be against him, given there are just seven sitting senators who never previously held elected office. Six had at least some political or policy experience.

Nevertheless, the Democratic recruit, businesswoman Michelle Nunn, is a first-time candidate, and recent polls indicate that Perdue is currently in single-digit leads against Nunn in a potential match-up.

Polls also show that a match-up between Nunn and Kingston put Nunn ahead by an average of just 2.5 percent.

"The good news for Republican chances [in November] is that Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, far right candidates with a knack for stoking controversy, appear to be out of the running," the Post said.

Oregon


Republicans are keeping a close eye on the fortunes of pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby, who is facing off against state Rep. Jason Conger. She has looked poised for a sure victory, but a report that emerged Friday alleging Wehby stalked an ex-boyfriend may have dented her momentum going into the final days.

It's unclear to what extent the news may have damaged her chances, particularly given that many Oregon voters vote by mail, the Post noted, predicting she will prevail.

If she wins, Wehby would go on to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley who narrowly won in 2008.

While a Republican hasn't been elected senator in the state in over 10 years, early polls indicate Wehby would be running neck-and-neck with Merkley, giving the GOP a credible chance to take the seat. One poll in April gave Wehby a 4-point lead, while another gave Merkely a 12 percent advantage.

Related stories:

Three Big Senate Primaries Hold Key for GOP in November


Primaries Offer Test of Republican 'Establishment' Strength




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