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The Last Big Primary Day

Election signs

Political signs line Hine Junior High School in Washington, D.C. Photo by Tom Williams/Roll Call via Getty Images.

The Morning Lne

Tuesday is the last major primary day of the year, with voters in seven states and the District of Columbia headed to the polls to choose party nominees.

The Morning Line takes a look four of the day’s key contests…


No race will be more closely watched Tuesday than the Republican Senate primary in Delaware, where Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell faces off against moderate Congressman Mike Castle in a test of the anti-establishment’s strength this midterm election year.

O’Donnell appears to be the candidate with all the momentum, thanks to a recent poll showing her locked in a dead heat with Castle and a slew of last-minute endorsements from former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and the National Rifle Association.

Castle, meanwhile, has the support of the national and state Republican Party apparatus, and is perhaps the most popular GOP official in the state, having served nine terms in Congress and two terms as governor before that. But while his blend of moderate views on social issues and fiscal conservatism make him a solid general election candidate, it could spell trouble in Delaware’s closed primary, which is limited to the state’s 182,796 registered Republicans.

In a Public Policy Polling survey released Sunday, Castle trails O’Donnell, 62-31, among conservative Republican voters, but has an overwhelming 69-21 lead among moderates.

National Republicans had been counting on taking over Delaware this fall, with polls showing Castle running well ahead of the Democratic candidate, New Castle county executive Chris Coons, who is running unopposed in his party primary Tuesday.

According to political survey tracking website Pollster.com, Castle leads Coons by an average of nearly 12 points in a potential general election contest. But when Coons’ opponent is O’Donnell, Pollster.com finds that the Democrat is favored by an average of 13 points.

Castle declared Monday in an interview with NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell that an O’Donnell win would cost Republicans the seat in November. “Bottom line is, if she’s nominated, Republicans lose the election automatically. It’s that simple,” said Castle.

Voter registration figures in the state show Castle’s argument might hold water, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by some 110,000 people, a significant advantage considering there are a little more than 620,000 registered voters in all in Delaware.


An insurgent victory could also take place Tuesday in New Hampshire, where attorney Ovide Lamontagne is looking to surprise former state attorney general and national party favorite Kelly Ayotte in the Republican Senate primary to replace retiring GOP Sen. Judd Gregg.

A Magellan Strategies poll released Monday found Ayotte leading Lamontagne by four points, 35-31. A Public Policy Polling survey out Sunday showed Ayotte with a seven-point advantage.

The two other candidates in the GOP primary, millionaire Bill Binnie and businessman Jim Bender, trail in both polls by significant margins.

The winner of the GOP primary will face Congressman Paul Hodes, who is running unopposed on the Democratic side. Polling indicates Ayotte to be the favorite in a general election matchup with Hodes, while a primary victory by Lamontagne would move the race into the toss-up column this fall.

On ABC’s “Top Line” Monday, Hodes declined to say which Republican opponent he would rather face in November, contending Ayotte and Lamontagne both “share an extreme far-right radical agenda.”


It’s rare that a primary election for a House seat garners much national attention, but this is no ordinary House seat.

Embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., has been representing his Harlem-based district in Congress for 40 years, and he’s never faced a challenge as strong as the one he faces Tuesday.

“‘This is my life, my career,’ Rangel said yesterday at a campaign stop in East Harlem,” per the New York Daily News.

The congressional district is overwhelmingly Democratic, which makes primary day all but decisive.

Rangel, who still awaits his House trial on alleged violations of ethics rules, is facing four opponents on the ballot. His most significant challenge comes from Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV. In a historically poetic twist, it was Powell’s father whom Rangel defeated in a Democratic primary in 1970 to win the seat he now seeks to maintain.

The House Ethics Committee may not convene Rangel’s trial until after the Nov. 2 election.

“In a measure of just how entrenched and popular Rangel is, his underfunded rivals almost always qualify their criticism with words of appreciation for his contribution to the city and community,” writes The Hill’s Shane D’Aprile in his look at Rangel’s busy final pre-primary day on the campaign trail.

Should Rangel prove victorious Tuesday and defy the ethics cloud surrounding him, in addition to the anti-incumbent, anti-Washington fervor dominating much of the political landscape, questions about his future will not likely cease.

It looks unlikely that Rangel will ever again assume the chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Without that perch of power, it remains to be seen how much longer he plans to serve in Congress.


Mayor Adrian Fenty took to the airwaves of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this primary day morning and acknowledged that he’s a “newer breed politician” who attempted to run the District of Columbia more like a private sector company, which could have left some people behind.

It may be a little too late for Fenty to successfully apologize for a lack of real or perceived sense of inclusion or listening to all communities in the city.

And it’s precisely those perceptions, particularly in many African-American communities across the city, that City Council Chairman Vincent Gray has used as his opening, which may culminate with his ousting of Fenty.

At times it has seemed that Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has been on the ballot as much as her boss. The mayor’s schools reform push has been hard charging and a central focus of the campaign.

The Los Angeles Times previews Tuesday’s contest:

“Fenty has managed to attract businesses beyond the corridors of Georgetown and Pennsylvania Avenue. His policies have, with mixed success, reduced crime. By all accounts, Fenty staked his political career on an aggressive takeover of the district’s schools. If the state of the school system were an accurate indicator — fourth-grade students here lead the nation in reading gains — Fenty would be cruising toward an easy reelection.”

“But despite the mayor’s accomplishments, Washingtonians are divided — largely along racial and socioeconomic lines: Fenty is generally viewed as a post-civil rights era leader with the ability to transcend racial divides.”

“His challenger, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, has appealed to a sense among blacks that Fenty sold them out — that the mayor cares more about dog parks and bike paths in upper-middle-class white neighborhoods than improving the distressed wards across the Anacostia River.”

Despite the federal government’s presence, the mayoral race in Washington, D.C., has been quite localized. President Obama did not weigh in on Fenty’s behalf despite Fenty’s early support for Mr. Obama’s presidential bid.

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