Some long-serving — and in some cases controversial — politicians will have their fates determined in primaries on Tuesday. Five states are holding primaries for various offices and several of the contests have been drawing national attention.
By far the most-watched race nationwide is that in Mississippi, where 36-year Republican Sen. Thad Cochran is fighting for his political life against tea party-backed insurgent and state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Last month, with his campaign fueled by support from national groups such as the Club for Growth and conservative favorites Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum, McDaniel, 41, actually led the venerable Cochran in the initial primary.
Because neither candidate won a majority, the Tuesday runoff is necessary. All signs point to a McDaniel win, and a just-completed Chism Strategies poll shows him leading Cochran among likely voters by a margin of 52.2 percent to 44 percent.
Cochran, 76, is not going gently into the night. In the twilight days of the campaign, he and his supporters have been slamming McDaniel for his endorsement from Ron Paul, saying the former presidential hopeful's views on slashing defense spending would hurt the Magnolia State's heavily defense-oriented economy.
In New York's 13th District in upper Manhattan and the Bronx, Rep. Charles Rangel — 84 years old, out of his ranking position on the House Ways and Means Committee, and censured by colleagues for tax troubles — is facing the toughest primary of his 44-year congressional career.
The third most senior U.S. representative is in a rematch with fellow Democrat and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who came within 1,000 votes of denying Rangel renomination in 2012.
The dynamics of state and national politics are at work in this primary. Bill Clinton has robocalls going on to rally support for Rangel, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo just weighed in for the embattled incumbent. But President Obama is conspicuously neutral in the race (Rangel backed Hillary Clinton for president in 2008), as is New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (Rangel backed his primary opponent Bill Thompson in 2013).
Former Rangel backers such as City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. have switched to Espaillat, as has The New York Times.
The other sitting New York congressman under fire in his own party is Republican Richard Hanna, who faces a difficult primary in the 22nd District centered around Utica. One of the few GOP lawmakers who refuses to sign the anti-tax pledge of Americans for Tax Reform, two-termer Hanna has backed federal funding for National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood and supports same-sex marriage.
Hanna faces one of the most-watched stars on the right in the Empire State in State Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, whose voting record with the New York State Conservative Party is 96 percent. A sign of nervousness on the part of Hanna's backers is a recent media broadside funded in part by same-sex marriage advocate Paul Singer attacking Tenney as less than conservative — the same tactic that Republican Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia deployed against primary challenger Dave Brat and which irked his supporters enough to turn out for a big upset.
Other key primary contests to watch are:
Colorado: Time for Tancredo?
There is a mounting fear among some Republicans that their nomination to oppose Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper could go to the most controversial candidate of all: former Rep. Tom Tancredo, one of the nation's best-known illegal immigration foes and a backer of the state law legalizing marijuana.
Tancredo, who drew 40 percent of the vote as a third-party candidate for governor in 2010, narrowly leads Bob Beauprez, another former congressman and past gubernatorial candidate, 27 percent to 25 percent among likely voters, according to a just-completed Magellan Poll. Rounding out the GOP field are Secretary of State Scott Gessler, 13 percent, and former state Sen. Mike Kopp, 10 percent.
Magellan also showed Hickenlooper, who raised taxes and signed an unpopular gun control bill into law, leading Tancredo 50 percent to 41 percent among all voters statewide.
Rep. Cory Gardner is assured of the GOP nomination against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in what is sure to be one of the hardest fought Senate races anywhere this year. In the heavily Republican 4th District vacated by Gardner, the front-runner for Congress among four GOP hopefuls is former Weld County District Attorney and 2010 Senate nominee Ken Buck. In recalling outspoken conservative Buck's narrow loss to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, columnist George Will quoted Winston Churchill's famous quip about Secretary of State John Foster Dulles: "He's a bull who brings along his own China shop."
New York: House Opportunities Knock for Republicans
In four U.S. House Districts held by Democrats, Republicans have even or better-than-even chances of net gains: 1st District (Eastern Long Island), where Rep. Tim Bishop has had close calls in recent years and will face a strong GOP challenge from either state Sen. Lee Zeldin or attorney George Demos; 3rd District, where attorney and two-time U.S. House nominee Grant Lally is favored over 2012 nominee Steve Labate to face Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel; 4th District (Nassau County), where Hofstra University Law Professor and tea party favorite Frank Scaturro is in a rock 'em, sock 'em, race with businessman Bruce Blakeman for nomination to the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, whose likely Democratic successor is Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice; and the 21st District (North Country), where former Bush White House aide Elise Stefanik has the Conservative Party line and is favored in the GOP primary over two-time candidate Tom Doheny for the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Bill Owens.
Oklahoma: Race for Coburn Seat Likely to Go to Runoff
All signs point to a runoff between two-term Rep. James Lankford and state House Speaker T.W. Shannon for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Coburn. A just-completed Oklahoma Poll shows Lankford, a favorite of social conservatives, leading Shannon, a stalwart conservative who is black and American Indian, by a margin of 41 percent to 38 percent. However, the same poll showed 3 percent going to former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, a past candidate for governor, and 2 percent to others, and this almost surely means neither Lankford nor Shannon will reach the majority needed to clinch nomination outright.
Conservatives are all over the proverbial board on this one. Mike Huckabee is in Lankford's camp, while the Senate Conservatives Fund and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are for Shannon.
In the 5th District (Oklahoma City) vacated by Lankford, there is no front-runner and the race will likely go to runoff. A News 9 survey among likely Republican voters showed three candidates had double-digit support in the poll, including Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas (11.6 percent), state Sen. Clark Jolley (11.4 percent), and state Rep. Mike Turner (11.2 percent). Three candidates trailed, including former state Sen. Steve Russell (7.4 percent), former state Rep. Shane Jett (5.5 percent) and former congressional staff member Harvey Sparks (3.7 percent). All are considered strong conservatives.
South Carolina: Dress Rehearsal for '16?
To many observers, the runoff for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor tonight is a contest over who will champion "values voters" and blue collar voters in the 2016 presidential primary here. Mike Huckabee is campaigning hard for Mike Campbell, his campaign chairman in the 2008 primary and the son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, and Rick Santorum stumped for Henry McMaster, former state attorney general and top vote-getter in the initial primary.
Both Huckabee and Santorum are past presidential hopefuls and considering bids in 2016.
In the runoff for state superintendent of education, former state legislator Molly Spearman is locked in a tight GOP contest with Sally Atwater, widow of the late Republican National Chairman Lee Atwater.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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