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Tuesday’s primaries offer something for everyone

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  May 19, 2014 at 9:18 AM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao ride in the Adairville Strawberry Festival parade while campaigning for the Republican primary in Adairville, Kentucky May 17. McConnell and challenger Matt Bevin are campaigning heavily throughout the state during the final weekend before Tuesday's primary. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao ride in the Adairville Strawberry Festival parade while campaigning for the Republican primary in Adairville, Kentucky May 17. McConnell and challenger Matt Bevin are campaigning heavily throughout the state during the final weekend before Tuesday’s primary. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Teeing up 2014’s Super Tuesday
  • Tea party vs. establishment in Kentucky
  • Race to the right in Georgia
  • Women candidates key to both parties’ chances

Super Tuesday has it all: If there’s one primary day to pay attention to, it’s this Tuesday. It’s got everything — Senate control, another bite at the GOP establishment vs. tea party apple, prominent women candidates on both sides, political dynasties, and the Democratic fight to replace a vulnerable Republican governor swept in with the 2010 tea party wave.

Senate control: Tuesday will tell us something about how the race for control of the Senate will shape up this fall. Kentucky and Georgia are Democrats’ two strongest targets. The race for the Senate in Arkansas officially kicks off. And Oregon will show whether Republicans have a real target or not there this fall, as the establishment hopes to get its preferred candidate in Monica Wehby, a pro-abortion rights doctor. Wehby has garnered attention for a strong positive ad with testimony from a woman who said Wehby, a neurosurgeon, saved her child’s life. But the other side of politics surfaced in the closing stretch — it was revealed that last year, after a breakup with her wealthy ex-boyfriend, she was accused of “stalking” him in a police report. Ironically, the ex-boyfriend, a timber executive, said he overreacted when talking to police and is actually funding ads against her primary opponent.

Tea party vs. establishment: The tea party may have gotten a win last week in non-competitive Nebraska, but as we noted then, the next few weeks don’t line up well for the movement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appears to be on track to cruise to a victory Tuesday against his tea party opponent, Matt Bevin. The latest poll shows McConnell up 55 percent to 35 percent over Bevin, who spent $3 million on the race, $1 million of which was his own money. In Georgia, of the top three opponents, tea party activists aren’t quite sure who to root for. The two most tea party-aligned candidates are polling toward the bottom of the five-way primary. But one thing is for certain: as the Democrat waits for them to wrap up their primary (that will almost certainly extend to a July 22 runoff), the Republicans are trying to out-right each other. In Idaho, it appears the tea party fight against Rep. Mike Simpson may have fizzled as the Club for Growth has pulled out and decided to spend its resources elsewhere. (And, by the way, that Idaho governor’s race primary will be decided. Does Republican Butch Otter survive his serious primary fight after that unserious debate?)

The rise of women: Tuesday will also highlight the importance of women on BOTH sides of the aisle. Four women, who are key to both parties’ chances this fall, are running in races Tuesday. Women are severely underrepresented in Congress. Despite making up 51 percent of the U.S. population and 53 percent of the electorate, women make up just 20 percent of the Senate (20 of 100) and 18 percent of the House (79 of 435). In the Senate, 80 percent of women are Democrats (16 of 20). In the House, 76 percent are Democrats (60 of 79). Two Democratic women give Democrats their best chance at flipping GOP seats this fall — Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky and Michelle Nunn in Georgia. Both are polling tied or close to their potential Republican opponents. Two women Tuesday could help Republicans tell a better story about making in-roads with women — Wehby, who could put the seat in play in Oregon — a state Republicans haven’t won in in 12 years — against progressive Democrat Jeff Merkley; and Karen Handel in Georgia. Handel is the former Georgia secretary of state, and Republicans believe that if she gets through the primary, she could offset Nunn’s potential advantage. Handel could also raise lots of national GOP money because her winning would help negate the Democratic storyline that the GOP isn’t the party of women. Other Republican women could be added to the Senate as well this cycle, including Joni Ernst, who appears to be the front-runner in the June 3 Iowa primary; Terri Lynn Land, who is running unopposed in Michigan Aug. 5; and Shelly Moore Capito, favored to be the next senator from West Virginia. But just how important are women to Democrats holding the Senate? In addition to Grimes and Nunn challenging, three Democratic women are targeted incumbents facing a competitive general election challenge — Sens. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.

2010 GOP governors in blue states to be tested: Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania is widely considered the most vulnerable Republican governor in the country. His approval ratings have been in the 20s and 30s, and that has set off a crowded Democratic primary to replace him. Corbett is one of a handful of GOP governors swept in with the 2010 tea party wave and now up for re-election in states President Barack Obama won in 2012, including Rick Scott in Florida, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Snyder in Michigan. The favorite in the Democratic primary Tuesday is Tom Wolf, a kitchen cabinet-maker and former state revenue secretary under Ed Rendell. Wolf is a testament to the power of ads. His early and quirky positive ones helped him leapfrog Rep. Allyson Schwartz from last to first place. Corbett trails his potential Democratic opponents in hypothetical match-ups by double digits. He has upset Democrats in a left-leaning state with his comments on same-sex marriage, his anti-gun control stance and opposition to the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Julian Castro heads to Washington to be named head of HUD: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is expected to be named secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The move will raise Castro’s profile in Washington circles, allow him to focus on an issue of importance to the Democratic base, help him build a national portfolio and contacts and, of course, spur talk of him as a potential vice presidential candidate in 2016. Castro was thought to be a potential PRESIDENTIAL candidate at some point beyond 2016, especially if he could become governor of Texas, something that wouldn’t be likely for the 40-year-old until at least 2018. Jonathan Martin and Peter Baker write in the New York Times: “Some of Mr. Castro’s allies also believe that with income inequality becoming a focal point for Democrats, the HUD job offers the mayor an opportunity to burnish his credentials on issues of poverty and to raise his appeal among those on the party’s left. The post will also let him develop relationships with and win favors from city leaders and activists in a way he cannot on the Democratic lecture circuit.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1962, Marilyn Monroe performed a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for President Kennedy. Where was the event? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Rachael ‏(@CreativeArtistB) for correctly guessing Friday’s trivia. The answer was: Johnson was impeached for removing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, which was a violation of the Tenure of Office Act.

LINE ITEMS

  • Expect Republicans to start talking about fixing the health care law after the PRIMARY elections. Seeing a modest increase in popularity of the law, Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who helps conduct the NBC/WSJ poll, said at the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers conference, or AAPOR, “After the primaries, expect a shift in Republican candidates’ rhetoric against Obamacare. … Only few want to repeal the law; most want to fix and keep it.

  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced Monday that it edged its counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in fundraising in April, $6.3 million to $6 million. The DSCC ended the month with $25 million cash on hand compared to $22 million for the NRSC. For the cycle the DSCC has outraised the NRSC by $21 million — $80.4 million to $59.2 million.

  • A new poll from Politico bears some bad news for Democrats, showing that only 34 percent of likely voters would opt for the Democratic candidate, if the election were held today. The poll also found that bipartisan support for stricter gun control legislation is at 79 percent among likely swing state voters.

  • That “cradle of liberalism,” the northeast, has yet to crack the glass ceilings in many governors’ mansions, reports Jonathan Martin in the New York Times.

  • Former hedge fund manager and billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer is the single largest contributor to the Senate Majority PAC. As of last month, he and his wife had given $11 million to super PACs this cycle, mostly to Steyer’s own NextGen Climate, making him the largest source of super PAC money this cycle.

  • Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called the House select committee on Benghazi “ridiculous” on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, saying it’s “a hunting mission for a lynch mob.”

  • As the 1980 vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, David Koch sounded a lot different than he does today. The Koch brothers are the subject of a new biography out Tuesday, which examines the early origins of their ideology.

  • Despite being a favorite of progressives, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has found willing partners among Republicans on issues ranging from government transparency to overhauling the country’s housing finance system.

  • Speaker John Boehner is touting his bipartisan water bill as the new gold standard in the post-earmark era of the House.

  • After Rep. Ralph Hall failed to pick up the GOP nomination in March, a majority of the Texas delegation and other House members are hurrying to help the 17-term congressman secure a win during the May 27 runoff.

  • RNC chairman Reince Priebus told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that Hillary Clinton’s health is “fair game” if she decides to run for president.

  • A man was arrested for illegally taking pictures of Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s bed-ridden wife in her nursing home and posting the photos on his political blog. The Cochran campaign is questioning how the manager of GOP opponent Chris McDaniel’s campaign knew about the man’s arrest before the news broke.

  • North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory got caught up in the state legislature’s swing to the right last year, but with state leaders brandishing a less ambitious agenda this session, it remains to be seen whether the moderate will hold more sway over state GOP leadership.

  • Karen Tumulty looks at Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society 50 years later.

  • Three gay GOP candidates in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and California are running for House seats this cycle.

  • While discussing mass shootings during a debate over the weekend, a rancher running for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District said, “If you look at all the fiascos that have occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people.”

  • Residents of Wolfeboro, N.H., are calling on one of the town’s police commissioners to resign after he admitted using a racial slur to refer to President Obama.

  • Wyoming lawmakers are calling national science education standards that teach the human impact on climate change a threat to the state’s economy. Wyoming was the first state to reject the standards that have so far been adopted by 11 states plus the District of Columbia.

  • The Supreme Court could soon decide the fate of many immigrant children who turn 21 prior to their parents receiving green cards and effectively “age out” of the immigration system.

  • Reid Wilson lays out the priciest ballot initiatives in recent history. All but one were in California.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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