Three Big Senate Primaries Hold Key for GOP in November

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 11:00 AM

By John Gizzi

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Although six states are holding primaries on May 20, the contested Republican primaries for U.S. senator in three key states will attract the most attention nationwide.

Kentucky: How Big A Win for Mitch?

What was once considered a spirited and potentially threatening primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell has apparently fizzled out. Unable to rally a united front among tea party members against the 30-year incumbent, businessman, Matt Bevin's credibility has come under fire in the twilight of the primary over whether he is truly an opponent of cockfighting, a controversial issue in the Bluegrass State.

The question among pundits is not whether McConnell will win but by how big a margin. The latest Survey USA poll showed McConnell trouncing Bevin by a margin of 55 percent to 35 percent among likely primary voters.

The size of McConnell's win will be watched closely as a sign of how strong he goes into the fall campaign against Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state and a self-styled "Bill Clinton Democrat." SurveyUSA's latest numbers among all voters statewide showed the race is too close to call:  Grimes 43 percent, McConnell 42 percent.

Georgia: Who Will Be Top Two?

No one believes for a second that any of the five leading contenders for nomination to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss will win the required 50 percent of the vote-plus-one needed to avoid a run-off in July.

So what Peach State Republican voters will decide is which of the candidates place one-two and then meet in the run-off. Virtually all polls show millionaire businessman David Perdue in the lead, with Rep. Jack Kingston, a stalwart conservative and close Newt Gingrich associate,  running second.

In recent weeks, however, Perdue has been hurt by statements suggesting he supports tax increases to cut the national debt and favors the Common Core federal standards for public schools. Backed by conservatives such as former Sen. Mack Mattingly, R-Ga., and Steve Forbes, Kingston has come on strong in the end.

Rounding out the field are former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (endorsed by Sarah Palin but having difficulty raising money), and Reps. Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun.

The certain Democratic nominee is businesswoman Michelle Nunn, daughter of revered former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga..

Oregon: Will Wehby Win It?


In a state which last elected a Republican senator in 2002, few Republicans at first had hopes of dislodging Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley. But that attitude began to change earlier this year when several polls showed physician Monica Wehby running neck-and-neck with narrow '08 winner Merkley.

Wehby has impressed state and national GOP activists with her speaking style and ability to articulate the case against Obamacare. Most polls give her a 10-to-20 percentage point lead over primary foe and State Rep. Jason Conger.

In the last few days, the physician-candidate experienced some unwanted publicity following revelations that a former boyfriend, timber magnate Andrew Miller, called 9-1-1 in 2013 to report harassment on her part. Miller recently told reporters that he and Wehby parted as friends and, in fact, he is running an outside political action committee to support her candidacy.

More than a few Oregonians believe the last-minute negative broadsides came from an increasingly worried Merkley and were an attempt to influence the Republican primary. There is little evidence that this will hurt Wehby and in fact, the resulting sympathy may fuel a bigger-than-expected win.

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