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Party Favorites Safe in First Round of 2010 Primaries in Indiana, Ohio, N.C.

Voters in Indiana, Ohio, and North Carolina selected candidates in party primaries for three contested Senate seats Tuesday – the first multistate primary day in this year’s midterm elections.

Tuesday’s races were a chance to see if primary voters were willing to vote against party favorites amid the partisan rancor in the U.S. and polls showing greater distrust of government. There were no big surprises, with most of the establishment or incumbent candidates winning their party’s nod for the general election.

We took a look at analysis and reporting on the races from around the Web:

Indiana

Former Sen. Dan Coats won a crowded Republican primary in the race to fill the seat of retiring Democrat Evan Bayh. The Democratic Party is set to select Rep. Brad Ellsworth for their nominee later in the month.

Politics columnist Matthew Sully of The Indianapolis Star said Coats stumbled because of his past ties to lobbying, but still won:

For Coats, Tuesday’s win was nice, but the final numbers had to be humbling. A former U.S. senator, a man who recently came back to Indiana to great fanfare, Coats grabbed only about 39 percent of the vote Tuesday. Four other candidates split the remainder.

State Sen. Marlin Stutzman trailed Coats with 30 percent of the vote. Stutzman was a favorite of tea party activists and was endorsed by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a leading conservative voice in Congress who has been backing conservative candidates across the country.

Coats retired from the Senate in 1998 and worked as a lobbyist. He was also ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush.

Ohio

Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher bested Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner with 55 percent of the vote in the Democratic Senate primary and will go on to face former congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman. Both are running to fill retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich’s seat.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Fisher’s fundraising advantage made a big difference.

With the backing of [Governor] Strickland and most labor unions, Fisher overwhelmed Brunner with campaign cash, relying on a TV-ad blitz of more than $1 million. Lacking the resources for paid TV, Brunner ran an insurgent campaign, traveling the state in a converted school bus dubbed “The Courage Express.”

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, a frequent guest on the NewsHour, wrote that Fisher’s spending will weaken him against a well-funded Portman.

Fisher had the backing of state and national Democrats but Brunner drew support from liberals. Fisher managed to win but spent heavily to do so — spending that means he will start in a deep financial hole against former Rep. Rob Portman (R) in the fall.

North Carolina

A crowded field of Democrats forced a June runoff for the Senate primary after none of the candidates passed the 40 percent mark. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall received 37 percent of the vote and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham received 27 percent. Attorney Ken Lewis received 19 percent.

The runoff between Marshall and Cunningham is scheduled for June 22.

John Dinan, associate professor of political science at Wake Forest University, told the The Winston-Salem Journal that parties like to avoid runoffs so that they have more time to support the chosen candidate, but that there are advantages as well:

“Another 1 and a half months of active campaigning prior to a runoff can boost the name recognition of the winning candidate to a greater degree than would happen in the absence of a runoff,” he told the paper.

Incumbent Sen. Richard Burr won the Republican primary by a wide margin.

Carl Cannon and Mary F. Curtis of Politics Daily write that the North Carolina Senate race is likely to be close this fall.

November’s race will be closely watched with Burr, a freshman Republican senator in a state won by candidate Obama in 2008, on the ballot. During the campaign, Burr said he was confident that his opposition to President Obama’s policies would be rewarded in November with a second Senate term.

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