Pollster Matt Towery says that Iowa and Mississippi are the elections to watch Tuesday night as primaries in eight states come to a head.
"We're going to be watching Iowa and Mississippi because in both cases the candidates need to get the magic numbers," Towery told J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV Tuesday.
Senate primary battles in Alabama, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota will help determine whether Republicans have a credible chance of gaining the six seats required to take control of the chamber from Democrats.
Voters in those seven states plus California will also choose nominees in the race for the House, where Republicans have a clear advantage of staying in the majority. Gubernatorial primaries are taking place in Alabama, Iowa, New Mexico, South Dakota and California, where Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking a fourth term this fall.
In Iowa, Republican hopeful Joni Ernst was leading
in a Des Moines Register poll after gaining national notoriety from an ad in which she cites her experience on a farm and vows to "make 'em squeal' in Washington if elected.
The poll showed her with 36 percentage points — 1 point higher than the threshold for winning the nomination outright and avoiding a state convention later this year.
"In her case, she has to get 35 percent plus one vote and if she does so then she becomes a nominee, if not this defaults to a GOP state convention," Towery explained.
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Supporting her in a last-minute swing around the state was Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, in addition to support she's received from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
"They're all pushing one candidate and that's the woman who says that she can castrate pigs and she can go up and take care of Washington D.C.," Towery added.
For six-term Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, it's the race of a lifetime against conservative challenger Chris McDaniel, the faces of establishment Washington and the tea party movement that drove the GOP to the House majority in 2010.
McDaniel has commanded considerable energy from Mississippi's conservatives to counter any damage his campaign suffered when four of his supporters were arrested on charges of photographing Cochran's bedridden wife in a bizarre plot.
Towery said that he agrees with those who have called this one of the "meanest races" that he's seen in a while.
"I concur this is probably the meanest, old-fashioned style race we've seen in decades in the south and this blogger issue did explode and at one time it created a lot of momentum for Cochran," Towery explained.
Cochran, meanwhile, has campaigned with Southern gentility, the GOP establishment's support and a promise to leverage his Senate seniority for federal help for the state.
California is holding its first gubernatorial primary under the new all-candidates system in which the top two finishers, regardless of party, face off in November. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is favored to grab one spot. Republicans include former investment banker Neel Kashkari and state legislator Tim Donnelly.
Towery explained that it is very difficult to predict which GOP candidate will rise to the top because of California's "jungle primary."
However, he said that it is pretty certain that Brown will "emerge as the winner of governor for his fourth term.... California has just become inextricably Democrat."
In South Dakota, businessman Rick Weiland is unopposed in the Democratic primary to replace retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat. Former Gov. Mike Rounds and four others seek the GOP nomination. Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard seeks another term. Former state wildfire agency head Joe Lowe and state Rep. Susan Wismer seek the Democratic nod for governor.
In Montana, Sen. John Walsh was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Democrat Max Baucus. He faces two challengers in the Democratic primary. Rep. Steve Daines and two others seek the GOP nomination.
In Alabama, Republican Gov. Robert Bentley seeks a second term. Democratic candidates for his job include former Rep. Parker Griffith and former baseball player Kevin Bass.
In New Jersey, former mayors Steve Lonegan and Tom MacArthur seek the GOP nod to replace retiring Rep. John Runyan. Democratic contenders include Aimee Belgard and Howard Kleinhendler.
New Mexicans will vote to nominate candidates for Congress as well as state and local offices.
There are five Democratic candidates hoping to challenge Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and a two Republicans seeking to run against Sen. Tom Udall.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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