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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Four states in the Midwest/West hold primaries tomorrow: Montana, Nevada and the Dakotas. Let’s take a look at some of the key races and candidates in each.

Montana. Montana is an historically progressive western state that in recent years was depicted as one of the proving grounds for a new Democratic majority. Bill Clinton actually carried it in 1992, Democrat Brian Schweitzer attracted a lot of attention with his gubernatorial victory in 2004, and Barack Obama came close to swinging it back into the blue column in 2008. (It was also one of the five states I visited and focused on in Whistling.) Montana also played host to the dramatic saga of then-Senator Conrad Burns, who eventually lost his seat in 2006 to liberal netroots darling Jon Tester.

But this year Montana is largely out of the national conversation. This is the one federal cycle every 12 years when neither of the state’s two Senate seats, nor the governor’s office, is on the ballot. As the Great Falls Tribune reports, tomorrow’s primary outcomes may have the most impact on the state legislature. The only notable federal race tomorrow is the Democratic primary to see who will face Republican Denny Rehberg, the state’s at-large congressman. But Rehberg, despite a recent boating accident, is pretty safe, and he has raised more cash than all of his potential Democratic opponents combined. For more on the crowded Democratic primary field, I recommend this guest post over at DailyKos.

Nevada. This small state may provide the biggest story lines of the 2010 cycle. If Democrat Harry Reid loses his seat, and thus his majority leader’s position, that will be the big national story of the night. Reid’s saving grace may be that the Republicans seem poised to nominate surging tea partier Sharron Angle to face Reid in November–even though the same Las Vegas Review-Journal poll showing Angle in the lead also confirms that Danny Tarkanian (yes, son of former UNLV coach) would be more competitive in the general against Reid. If Angle wins tomorrow, this race becomes a big, big, big, big national battle with all sorts of implications, and will be a major focus this November–regardless of outcome.

But in the Silver State, which Republicans had dominated in recent presidential elections until Obama beat John McCain rather comfortably in 2008, Harry may not be the only Reid on the fall ballot: His son Rory is the favorite to win the Democratic nomination for governor tomorrow. Presuming he wins tomorrow, the younger Reid will face either embattled, scandal-plagued Republican incumbent Jim Gibbons or, more likely, Republican Attorney General Brian Sandoval, who in recent polls enjoys a double-digit lead over Gibbons.

And so, while the Silver State’s senate race may provide the single biggest national storyline of Election 2010 (if H.Reid loses, that is, and especially if he loses to Angle), the governor’s race is also rather compelling. (Almost…in terms of pure sizzle, a match-up between a tea party favorite and the senate majority leader is virtually impossible to beat.) Incidentally, presuming Sandoval wins—which would be the wise choice for Nevada Republicans, given that Reid polls well in a potential match-up with Gibbons—Sandoval will join Susana Martinez as the second Latino Republican in consecutive weeks to be nominated for governor by the Republicans, signaling that they recognize the power of Latino votes in the southwest.

As for a Reid-Sandoval final this November, that could be fun because father Harry’s name on the ballot could seriously complicate matters for the son, who will undoubtedly have a tough fight against the young, attractive state attorney general. Polls suggest that Sandoval should be the favorite; although Reid has outraised Sandoval overall, they’ve raised the same amount since January.

South Dakota. Popular incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Rounds is term-limited, and with at-large Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin not running, Larry Sabato ranks this a likely hold for the GOP. Which means the key contest tomorrow is the Republican primary between Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard and state senator Dave Knudson. Though Daugaard is the favorite and has the stronger numbers over expected Democratic nominee Scott Heidepriem, Knudson is surging in the late stages of this primary contest; he received the endorsement of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader yesterday. If Daugaard holds off Knudson, watch for the Daugaard-Heidepriem general election to be the contest with the most name misspells this cycle.

North Dakota. If, as Nate projects (see rankings, left), North Dakota is a certain pickup for Republicans in the wake of Democrat Byron Dorgan’s retirement, the real question there is not so much whether John Hoeven, the state’s popular governor, will win the open Senate seat, but by how much. So, there’s not much more to say about ND than, “Congrats nominee-to-be and Senator-elect Hoeven.”

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