The week in review

As I write this, voters in Hawaii’s 1st District are deciding who will represent them for the remainder of this term. Neil Abercrombie left a vacant House seat behind when he retired earlier this year to focus on a run at the Hawaii statehouse. Polls indicate Republican Charles Djou will win a plurality of the vote while Democrats Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa split the district’s majority Democratic voting bloc.

Due to this district’s heavy Democratic lean, if Djou wins, he will most likely lose in November. And, if Democratic voters decide at the last moment to back Case instead of splitting their votes with Hanabusa, Djou could lose. The winner aside, what I see as most important here is the percentage of the vote Djou receives. Let me illustrate what I mean. A Djou win where the vote breaks down 32/31/31 might not be as good a sign for Republicans heading toward November as a Djou loss where he gets a larger cut – say, for example, Case 42, Djou 40, Hanabusa, 14. Some would argue that a win is a win and a loss is always worse. To a point I agree. But Djou garnering 40 percent of the vote rather than 32 would demonstrate much more positive energy for the upcoming red wave.

Last Tuesday we were treated to a host of primary elections – and one special election – with intriguing storylines. In Kentucky, the Tea Party Movement showed its muscle in no uncertain terms as Tea Party favorite Rand Paul blasted Secretary of State Trey Greyson by 25 points to win the Republican nomination. On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jack Conway, who polled 15 to 20 points behind Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo back in March, completed a stunning comeback to claim the Democratic nod by a single percent. The matchup between Conway and Paul is sure to be a closely watched race. However, with the first poll out after the primaries giving Paul an overwhelming 59% to 34% lead, only time will tell if it is a close race.

In Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter’s 30-year stint in the Senate came to an abrupt end. Joe Sestak saw to that, gaining latebreaking support by capitalizing on Specter’s verbal gaffes (seems he still can’t distinguish between Republicans and Democrats) and George W. Bush’s support for his re-election 6 years ago. Now Sestak, who I believe is the stronger Democratic candidate, moves on to face Republican nominee, Pat Toomey. This is anybody’s race and could move from red to blue and back several times between now and November.

Down in Razorback country, Arkansas voters refused to give embattled Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln a clear vote of confidence in her 2nd re-election attempt. Though she did get the most votes, she failed to eclipse the 50% mark. As a result, she must face Lt. Governor Bill Halter in a June 8th runoff. On the Republican side, Congressman John Boozman did succeed in claiming a 50+% slice of the vote. The fact that he can sit by and watch Lincoln and Halter prolong their intra-party battle only enhances his already rosy prospects of earning a GOP takeover here.

Finally, there was the special election to fill the late John Murtha’s seat in Pennsylvania’s 12th District. Republicans had high hopes of taking one from the Democrats here, but too many Democratic voters and not enough independents proved too much. Former Murtha staffer Mark Critz ran significantly to the right of his predecessor and boss to achieve an 8-point victory. In my mind, the margin of the victory was of more significance than the victor.

Republican Tim Burns faced long odds of winning this one – regardless of what some pundits asserted. The Sestak/Specter matchup provided all the motivation hordes of Democratic primary voters needed to swamp the GOP faithful in this 2 to 1 Democratic district. And with independents who are accustomed to sitting out partisan primary elections making up just 4% of the vote, Burns did not stand a chance. That said, the convincing margin Critz managed should wake up giddy Republicans everywhere to the idea that a sizable red wave in November is by no means a foregone conclusion.

This post is cross-posted at Scott’s regular website, Election Projection: Visit EP for accurate, objective projections of the upcoming elections from a conservative perspective.

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