The Primary Races To Watch In Ohio, Indiana & North Carolina (Clay Aiken, We're Looking At You)
Tuesday is a big day in politics: The first primary elections have begun, the first step leading up to the 2014 midterm elections in November. They're taking place across three states — Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina — and feature storylines of entrenched incumbents and desperate electoral insurgency alike. And the outcomes could prove a predictive hint for how the Democrats and Republicans, locked in an overt battle over control of the U.S. Senate, are going to try to win.
The single highest-profile politician due for a primary Tuesday is Ohio Representative and Speaker of the House John Boehner, who's expected to cruise to an effortless victory, since his campaign war chest so thoroughly dwarfs his next most viable opponent, J.D. Winteregg. Winteregg is backed by just $325,000 from the The Tea Party Leadership Fund, based in Virginia, as opposed to Boehner's more than $12 million spent this cycle. So, this is perhaps an unfairly steep mountain to expect Winteregg to climb.
Incidentally, he's also built his campaign ads around parodying erectile dysfunction ads. This is surely electoral gold, because in case you didn't noticed, Boehner looks like it'd sound like "boner." Great comedy value, even if it isn't enough to get him over the finish line.
In Indiana, a familiar theme is playing out in likely its most prominent GOP congressional primary — that of the challenge from the right, a viable Republican potential nominee being pushed from the right by a more conservative, Tea Party-oriented challenger. Luckily for establishment Republicans, Stockdale seems like he doesn't have a shred of the amount of money he'd need to be a viable threat, to first-term incumbent Rep. Susan Brooks. As of primary day, Stockdale had raised and spent a mere $17,000.
But it's undeniably the primaries in North Carolina, where the GOP's 2014 challenger against Democratic Seantor Kay Hagan will be chosen, that loom largest. Hagan, who made North Carolina history as a female candidate by ousting a female incumbent, Elizabeth Dole, is thought to be one of the Democrats' most vulnerable seats, and a must-have pickup for Republicans to seize control of the Senate.
But whoever emerges from the field of her aspiring challengers could offer some very relevant insight. After all, the GOP in recent elections have shot themselves in the foot by enforcing strict conservative purity in their primaries, pushing general-election candidates further and further to the right to the point that mainstream appeal is nearly impossible. After all, who could forget the likes of Sharron Angle of Nevada, Todd Akin of Missouri, or Joe Miller of Alaska (and they might make that last mistake twice)? Far-right Tea Party devotees, thrust into the spotlight of the national stage, who all crumbled in spectacular fashion and cost their party easily winnable seats.
That Harry Reid is still Senate Majority Leader, and a Senator at all, and that Claire McCaskill successfully fended off a challenge as a Missouri Democrat speaks to the self-destruction inherent to the GOP's recent Tea Party fixation — moderate voters don't like pulling the lever for embarrassing extremists, simply put.
It'll be curious to see whether Republican voters make the same mistake with Hagan. Her most prominent challenger, and the man expected to end up opposite her, is state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, a strong favorite backed by prominent establishment names, like former Governors Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. Tillis is flanked by two chief challengers to his right — Greg Brannon, a libertarian-style favorite of Senator Rand Paul, and Mark Harris, a creature of the religious right supported by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
Tillis is expected to win the popular vote handily, but because of North Carolina's electoral law, if he fails to top 40 percent of the vote, he'll have to endure a run-off with the second-place finisher. This is an outcome which Hagan would relish, giving her extra time to lob attacks at the obvious frontrunner while his attention is diverted.
To her end, she's working to ensure that North Carolina Republicans make exactly that mistake, running ads against Tillis that hit him over once calling Obamacare a "good idea" — trying desperately to blunt any momentum he might have heading into the general. Whether North Carolina Republicans fall for it will be telling, both for their prospects of taking Hagan's seat, and for their chances of taking the Senate writ large.
Also, not to be overlooked on the Democratic side of the North Carolina ledger — a potentially intriguing development, as former American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken is a contender to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, of the state's second congressional district. Aiken's team has boasted of a poll showing him leading his opponents, former commerce secretary Keith Crisco, and mental health counselor Toni Morris by nearly 20 points, though it hasn't been independently verified. Luckily, for Aiken as for all these primary duelers Tuesday, we won't have to wait much longer to find out.