The Verdict: Surprising GOP Primary Results in Delaware, New Hampshire and Maryland

Delaware

The big upset of last night was when conservative insurgent Christine O’Donnell defeated Congressman Mike Castle by a 53% to 47% margin. The loss was the first in the career of the 72-year-old Castle, who has been Delaware’s lone representative in Congress since 1993. O’Donnell claimed victory at the Elks Lodge in Dover, and thanked the two people people who endorsed her in the final weekend, former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). When Palin made her endorsement few observers were expecting O’Donnell to win the primary, and no one can accuse Palin of not taking risks. O’Donnell did not mention Congressman Castle in her victory remarks. Hours later the Congressman said he would not endorse or support O’Donnell. He did not indicate if he would endorse Democrat Chris Coons. Castle said he would not run as a write-in candidate in the general election.

As soon as O’Donnell won, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow posted old video clips to embarrass the GOP nominee. This was just the first attack and voters will obviously be hearing alot in the days ahead about the Republican candidate’s unusual views on masturbation, premarital sex, pornography and adultery. All of this is designed to increase O’Donnell’s negative ratings among independents, and to discredit the tea party movement.

O’Donnell’s responses to most of the allegations against her involved quasi-denials, and she then criticized the accuser for making the allegations. The New York Times says one of the reasons Castle lost is because this is the year of the ”anti-incumbent.” However, as of last night, only seven incumbents have failed to win re-nomination.

Real Clear Politics, the Cook and Rothenberg Political Reports, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, are all changing their ratings of the Delaware Senate seat. It is tonight being shifted from “Likely Republican” or “Toss-up” to “Likely Democrat.” Karl Rove is more blunt, “The Delaware seat is gone” and says resources are better spent elsewhere.

In the GOP Congressional race, Glen Urquhart defeated the party-endorsed Michele Rollins by a mere 552 votes. Urquhart received 27,341 votes to Rollins’ 26,789. Urquhart will now face former Lt. Gov. John Carney (D) in the general election.

New Hampshire

Former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte narrowly defeated Ovide Lamontagne to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate by a 38% to 37% margin. Third place finisher, pro-abortion candidate Bill Binnie, had 14% and spent approximately $500 for every vote he received. Ayotte was supported by the Concord Monitor and the Nashua Telegraph but Lamontagne had the endorsement of the far more influential Manchester Union-Leader, as well as former Sen. Gordon Humphrey.

Lamontagne spent $500,000 to Ayotte’s $2 million and Binnie’s $6 million. Ayotte had the backing of practically every elected Republican and state party official. There was not a significant ideological difference between the Senate candidates, but Ayotte was seen as the more electable. Lamontagne was the GOP gubernatorial candidate in 1996 when he became the first Republican to lose in twenty years. He had upset then-Rep. Bill Zeliff in the GOP primary but lost to Jeanne Shaheen (D) in the general election. Shaheen is now a U.S. Senate and many thought Lamontagne had concentrated too much on the abortion issue.

Ayotte was supported by retiring Sen. Judd Gregg, former Sen. Warren Rudman, former Governors Craig Benson and Stephen Merrill, two former Congressmen, five former GOP state chairmen, and practically every elected Republican in the State Senate and state House of Representatives. Lamontagne had the lead in his home city of Manchester while Ayotte had a similar lead in her hometown of Nashua. The Democratic nominee is liberal Congressman Paul Hides.

The House races were closely contested. Former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta narrowly won the GOP nomination in the first district to contest Rep. Carol Porter-Shea, and former Rep. Charlie Bass won the nomination to try and reclaim his old House seat.

Maryland

Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich was nominated by the Republican Party with 76% of the vote. He now faces Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) who defeated him in 2006. All signs point to a close gubernatorial race in this Democratic state, and one of the most interesting developments is turnout. The primary results indicate that Democrats are in for a rough general election. In 2002, neither two-term Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) nor Congressman Bob Ehrlich (R) faced serious primary opposition, and the Democrat received roughly 400,000 votes to Ehrlich’s 200,000.

This 2 to 1 margin closely matched the state’s Democratic registration advantage. Roughly 100,000 Democrats voted against Townsend in the primary, so there was a 2.5 to 1 turnout advantage among Democrats. Ehrlich won he general election by a 52% to 48% margin. In 2006, neither Gov. Ehrlich or Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley (D) faced a primary challenge. O’Malley received 500,000 votes to Ehrlich’s 200,000 – essentially the same 2.5 to 1 turnout in 2002, but this time the Democrats were unified.

In 2010, O’Malley faced no serious challenge and Ehrlich did. So far, there have been 155,000 Democratic votes cast and 107,000 Republican votes. Ehrlich has 76% or 82,000. O’Malley has received 86% or 134,000. This is a surprising result because Democratic turnout is barely 1.5 to 1 over Republican. That is a very low ratio for the Democrats.

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