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Primary Night in America / 6.8.2010

1:39 AM [Ed]. Sorry, fans of exotic politics: Birther Queen Orly Taitz is getting crushed by Damon Dunn for the Republican Secretary of State nomination in California.

The biggest surprise to me in the California results so far is that Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado looks to be on his way to a relatively easy renomination. Maldonado has been called a RINO so many times that it ought to be his middle name. Yet he’s running ahead of conservative Sam Aanestad in places like San Diego and Riveside Counties, and currently leads overall by 47-27. It’s certainly a good night for the Monterey County pol: he’s also the author of Prop 14. Maybe he and Arnold will share a cigar.

On the other hand, Maldonado will be the underdog in November. Gavin Newsom seems to have the Democratic LG nomination in hand, though it hasn’t been called yet, probably because Janice Hahn’s LA County base is still largely out.

12:57 AM [Ed]. It’s official: according to AP, California has passed Prop 14, which will make today’s party primaries the state’s last, unless it is repealed. It was an easy call for AP, since Prop 14 is ahead in every single county with returns. The overall margin at present is 61-39.

12:56 AM [Tom]. If either Sharron Angle loses this November, letting a vulnerable and high-prized target for Republicans like Harry Reid slip through, or if Rand Paul gums up the race so much he loses what otherwise should have been a surefire Republican hold in Kentucky–and certainly if both lose–there is a going to be a major reassessment of the value of the tea party to the Republican Party a la what Marc Ambinder wrote about a week ago.

12:41 AM [Ed]. One California self-funder isn’t having a great night so far: former Facebook privacy officer Chris Kelly, who ran a relatively expensive campaign for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General, is trailing San Francisco DA Kamala Harris 33-18 with most of the Frisco vote still out.

12:37 AM [Nate]. The AP has called the Nevada Senate race for Sharon Angle. Nevada has gone full circle and looks like a toss-up again.

12:31 AM [Ed]. A potential barnburner heating up in California’s 19th congressional district, a GOP bastion where George Radanovich is retiring. His hand-picked successor, Jeff Denham, is leading former Fresno mayor Jim Patterson, a Club for Growth favorite, 40-27, but the Fresno vote hasn’t come in at all, so it could tighten up significantly. Former Rep. Richard Pombo is running third at 20%.

12:19 AM [Tom D.] Deep Thought: I think Blanche Lincoln should consider herself lucky that Arkansas wasn’t using IRV last month. Having a real second round certainly does change the dynamics of a race, and offers the chance for a completely new electorate.

12:18 AM [Ed]. A final note on Iowa: aside from its implications for pollster accuracy, Branstad’s surprisingly narrow winning margin should be a warning sign about the strength of the hard-core social conservative wing of the Iowa GOP going into 2012. Vander Plaats was heavily outspent, ran a clumsy campaign, and got kicked in the teeth by the idol of his base voters, Sarah Palin, just a few days out. But he came within 10 points of a guy with universal name ID and everything in the world going for him. In a caucus, the Vander Plaats Vote is going to be formidable.

What surprised me most about the returns in this race is that Vander Plaats seems to have done better in Des Moines than he did in much of western Iowa, Steve King country.

12:14 AM [Nate]. Harry Enten found a more updated version of the Clark County numbers and they show Angle winning even there. With her reasonably big margins upstate, she now looks quite safe.

12:08 AM [Nate]. Carly Fiorina called the winner by the AP; she’ll face Barbara Boxer.

12:04 AM [Nate]. Although Angle is clearly the favorite in Nevada — her lead is now about 6 points — think people are jumping the gun a bit until we learn more about Clark County, where there’s very little vote in.

Midnight [Ed]. California’s Prop 14, creating a “jungle primary” system, is winning 60-40 in early returns, but it’s gaining almost that exact percentage in every county, regardless of geography or ideology.

Meanwhile, the much-less-known Prop 15, which would repeal and existing ban on public financing of campaigns and create a pilot project for publicly financing the Secretary of State’s election, is trailing 57-43.

11:58 PM [Tom]. Though still only about one-fifth of the precincts in Montana reported, in the primary for the state’s at-large House seat, with 40 percent Dennis McDonald has opened up about a 20-point lead over three competitors who are more or less splitting the remaining 60 percent of the vote. Winner faces safe Republican incumbent Denny Rehberg

11:54 PM [Nate]. The White House is being really daft, but it’s also silly to think that Halter could have won the general in Arkansas. If you don’t trust Rasmussen and Research 2000 polling because of their extreme house effects, the only other poll of that race was from Mason-Dixon, and it showed Halter losing to Boozman by 24 points.

11:49 PM [Ed]. Fiorina is clearly winning big; she’s carrying Marin County, which ought to be Campbell Country for sure.

11:47 PM [Nate]. The White House is really ripping into Labor for backing Halter to the tune of $10 million.

11:44 PM. [Nate]. Per some smart person on Twitter, Meg Whitman will be the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in California.

11:39 PM. [Nate] Lowden has a small lead in Clark County (Vegas) so far, so she’s not out of the running against Angle, whom she trails by 5 points statewide so far.

11:34 PM [Tom Schaller]. On a night when my states don’t have many interesting storylines, a good story developing in NV GOP senate primary. Just 20 percent of precincts in as of 11:21 EST, but tea party favorite Sharron Angle, with 35 percent, leads a crowded field including Sue Lowden (33 percent) and Danny Tarkanian (21 percent).

11:33 PM [Tom Schaller]. A little over 100 of nearly 800 Montana precincts in and it’s too early to call the House at-large democratic primary for right to face Republican incumbent Denny Rehberg, who is cruising along to re-nomination.

11:26 PM [Nate]. On the Democratic side, “none of these” is in second place so far in Nevada.

11:24 PM [Nate]. Newswires project that Brian Sandoval will be the Republicans’ gubernatorial nominee in Nevada; he’s beating unpopualar incumbent Jim Gibbons.

11:21 PM [Nate]. In California, Fiorina leads Campbell 58-22 so far, confirming late polls that showed her continuing to surge.

11:17 PM [Nate]. Although only 1.2% of the vote is in, it is safe to say that Mickey Kaus will not be the Democratic Senate nominee in California.

11:14 PM [Nate]. As expected, Roxanne Conlin will be the Democratic nominee in the Iowa Senate race, where she’s a significant underdog to Chuck Grassley.

11:13 PM [Nate]. A extremely rare screw-up by the Selzer poll in Iowa, which was calling for a big (26-point) Branstad win; in fact, he’s leading Vander Plaats by just 10.

11:04 PM [Nate]. Underrated (?) dynamic: did Lincoln become the underdog (and therefore more sympathetic) once the media CW was that she had “lost” the election in May?

11:03 PM [Nate]. Painfully slow to get many returns in from Nevada. What happens there stays there, apparently.

11:01 PM [Nate]. And just like that, the AP has called it for Blanche Lincoln.

11:00 PM [Nate]. Don’t know that Halter can come back. A lot of the outstanding vote is in Benton and Pulaski Counties, and those are essentially his weakest areas.

10:42 PM [Nate]. Here’s that Halter-Lincoln chart again. You can see that the county votes are following a VERY consistent pattern, and one which most likely points toward a narrow Blanche Lincoln escape.

10:41 PM [Ed]. In the first returns from Iowa, Terry Branstad has an eleven-point lead over Bob Vander Plaats with 17% of the precincts in. But to my surprise, in Polk County (Des Moines), where 87% of the precincts are in, Branstad’s barely ahead of Vander Plaats, who is also leading in early returns from suburban Dallas County. Ironically, the first returns from Vander Plaats’ own county, Woodbury, show Branstad with a comfortable lead.

In the 3d congressional district Republican primary, nationally-handpicked candidate Jim Gibbons is currently getting crushed by state senator Brad Zaun, 51-22, with half the vote in.

10:40 PM [Nate]. Oops, something funny was going on with the AP’s vote counting there. Halter now losing by 20 in Pulaski country. BAD news for him.

10:28 PM [Nate]. Whoa, Halter leading by 18 points in Pulaski County (Little Rock) so far. He lost it by 12 in May. If that holds up, that’s a TOTAL game-changer.

10:16 PM [Nate]. Here’s a chart comparing Halter’s performance in May to today in counties that have actually tallied most of their vote. He’s overperforming in counties where he did well before — that’s the good news — but lagging behind in the swing counties and doing a fair amount worse in the big, urban counties where Lincoln racked up significant margins last time around. Overall, seems to point to a 3-4 point loss, but there’s a big margin for error still.

10:02 PM [Ed]. AP’s called the SC gubernatorial primary as headed for a Haley-Barrett runoff. Haley will fall just a few thousand votes short of a clean (if that’s a word you can use for SC politics) kill. Now we get to wait again to see what gets said about her between now and June 22.

10:01 PM [Nate]. Jefferson County has counted nearly all of its vote, and Halter is losing by 18 points there. He lost by 13 in May. He’s in trouble.

9:57 PM [Dan]. For Maine on the Democratic side, AG Steve Rowe narrowly leads Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, but given the closeness of the race, that lead likely will not survive the night, though its a bit early to make a clear call. The big news is still the GOP primary, in the sense that the Tea Party Movement has now demonstrated its ability to win a major primary in blue territory, albeit in the Republican Primary. While LePage will have an enormous amount of work if he wishes to avoid the fate of 2006 nominee Chandler Woodcock, him winning the general would be a sign that the Tea Party has appeal that extends beyond Conservatives, and even Conservative-leaning Independents.

9:45 PM [Nate]. Halter’s now losing population-heavy Jefferson County by 14 percent and a lot of the vote is in. Not one of his stronger areas — he lost it by 13 points in May — but it’s consistent with a pattern of his underperforming his margins by a point or so. And since Lincoln beat Halter by 2 points in May, that might point to her doing so by 3 or 4 points tonight. But, this is crude, and it’s early … it’s certainly going to be close … but I think Lincoln is about a 7:2 favorite at this stage.

9:38 PM [Tom Schaller]. With more than a third of the precincts now reported (all, presumably, from the eastern portion of the state where polls are now closed), Dennis Dauguaard has opened up a sizable lead over Dave Knudson in the Republican primary for South Dakota governor, 52 percent to 16 percent. Winner faces Democrat Scott Heidepriem in November.

9:36 PM [Nate]. A few more Arkansas counties … these are a bit better for Halter.

Bradley: lost by 6 in May, losing by 10 tonight.
Howard: lost by 1 in May, winning by 2 tonight.
Jefferson: lost by 13 in May, losing by 110 tonight.
Marion: won by 13 in May, winning by 18 tonight.

9:29 PM [Nate]. Bill Halter is in serious trouble. If you look at the counties where a decent number of precincts are reporting and compare his performance to three weeks ago… he’s usually doing worse.

Columbia: won by 17 in May, leads by 12 tonight.
Conway: won by 5 in May, leads by 2 tonight.
Ouchita: tied the country in May, trailing by 8 points tonight
Saline: lost by 2 points in May, losing by 6 tonight
Baxter: here’s some better news for Halter … won by 2 in May, winning by 12 tonight
Calhoun: won by 17 points in May, leads by 16 points tonight.
Scott: won by 12 in may, leading by 4 tonight.

9:27 PM [Tom Dollar]. If Halter does manage to come back and take down Lincoln, I’m sure we’ll hear some CW tomorrow about the death of the centrist senator. This will be coupled with some mandatory equivalency: the “MoveOn-backed” Halter on the left vs. the Tea Party on the right. What it shows me, though, is that Obama has done a poor job at staving off primary challenges for “his” senators. Perhaps it was the fact that he ran an anti-establishment campaign himself, but he’s been a lousy Machine Boss.

9:23 PM [Ed]. With over half the precincts reporting in SC, Nikki Haley is, at 48%, tantalizingly close to the possibility of winning the GOP gubernatorial nomination without a runoff (as Democrat Vincent Sheheen has already done). She’s predictably doing well in the Midlands region–though Henry McMaster, who is from Columbia, is holding her to 44% in Richland County–but she’s also doing amazingly well in the Low Country. She’s currently winning 58% in Charleston County, while her bitterest rival, Andre Bauer, a Charleston native, is getting a mere 7% in the county. Haley is also doing well in Upcountry counties outside Barrett’s base: viz, Spartanburg, where she has 54%.

It still looks like Barrett, with 22%, is the likeliest candidate to make a runoff against Haley if she doesn’t win outright; McMaster is at 18%, but his best county, Richland, is already in.

9:20 PM [Dan]. In Maine, with very limited results, Paul LePage, Mayor of Waterville, and newly-minted tea party candidate is leading. Now while only limited numbers are in, the AP report has him leading in Portland, with the moderates, Mills, and Abbott splitting the vote. In fact though, the vote splitting doesn’t seem to matter. Mills who is a state senator, and Abbott, who as Collins’ COS was the closest thing to an establishment candidate are sitting at around 24% of the vote combined. Now moderates usually gain in GOP primaries in the late reports, but indications are of a very low-turnout in Portland and Cumberland county generally, which is quite bad for them. Abbott at least has northern Maine, but Mills is in serious trouble.

9:15 PM [Nate]. Although it’s really early, Lincoln’s numbers are pretty consistent across different counties.

9:07 PM [Ed]. While we were obsessing about SC, three GOP congressional primaries in VA have been called. In VA-2 (Hampton Roads), front-runner and McDonnell endorsee Scott Rigell has beaten two strong opponents, and will face freshman Democrat Glenn Nye in this very marginal district.

In VA-5 (Central-Southside VA), another GOP establishment figure, state senator Robert Hurt, has won the nomination to face another freshman Democrat, Tom Perriello. But Hurt has aroused threats of a third-party Tea Party candidacy, so it could get interesting.

And in VA-11, in NoVa, 2008 nominee and self-funder Keith Fimian has won a rematch with still another freshman Dem, Gerry Connolly, in a district that’s a little more Democrat-friendly than the other two VA battlegrounds.

9:01 PM [Nate]. It looks like it may just be absentees or whatever, but Lincoln leads Halter 54-46 so far out of about 30,000 votes counted.

8:58 PM [Nate]. The AP called the #SCGOV Democratic primary for Sheheen (not Sheehan, sorry), who is leading 58-24.

8:57 PM [Tom Schaller]. With 16 total votes — not counties, not precincts — 538 calls the North Dakota Republican Senate primary for Gov. John Hoeven. He’s running unopposed.

8:45 PM [Ed]. AP called Georgia-9 for Tom Graves at 8:22 EDT, about 30 minutes after I reached that conclusion following the first glimpse of Lumpkin County’s vote. Just sayin’.

8:44 PM [Nate]. Ed is looking prescient, as Haley is now up to 48 percent. And Sheheen cruising on the Democratic side.

8:42 PM [Ed]. In one of the featured House races today, it looks like 4th district incumbent U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis of SC is going to be forced into a runoff with Tea Party favorite Trey Gowdy. In this Greenville-Spartanburg district, Inglis is narrowly leading in Greenville, but Gowdy is crushing the incumbent in his Spartanburg base. Looks like Gowdy will finish first, perhaps by a sizable margin, but with three other candidates in the race, he won’t get to 50%.

8:24 PM [Ed]. It’s too early to say much, but the first smattering of SC precincts was mostly from Gresham Barrett’s Upcountry base. A big chunk of the vote is from Pickens County, a suburb of Greenville, where Haley is leading Barrett 39-37. In the more representative Aiken County (home of Strom Thurmond), Haley has 53% at present. But in Horry County (Myrtle Beach), she’s down below 40%. She is most definitely going to run first, and I still think she has a chance to win without a runoff, but it will require a very strong vote in the Columbia area.

8:01 PM [Nate]. Now we’re starting to get a few votes in from the Palmetto state. Sheheen is clobbering Rex so far in the Democratic gubernatorial primary; polling had him favored, but not by this margin. Haley has 42 percent of the vote so far — well ahead, but not enough to avoid a run-off.

7:53 PM [Nate]. Please don’t count your votes any faster, South Carolina! You want to milk your moment in the sun, seeing how that strategy worked so well for Nikki Haley’s accuser!

7:51 PM [Ed]. In GA-9, Lumpkin County, next door to Hawkins’ base in Hall County, just came in with a narrow margin for Graves. I have no doubt now that Graves is going to win.

7:45 PM [Dan Berman]. Worth noting that it is technically not true that no Republican has won statewide since 1994 in California. Bill Jones won the Secretary of State’s office in 1998, the only Republican to win that year, and Steven Poizner of course won the Insurance Commissioner race in 2006.

7:38 PM [Ed]. It’s not a big focus tonight, but the first votes are trickling in for the special election runoff in GA-9, an all-Republican contest to choose a replacement for gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal. The mystery here is whether primary leader and Club for Growth/FreedomWorks endorsee Tom Graves will be fatally damaged by a financial scandal (he was sued by a bank for defaulting on a large commercial loan). The first votes coming in are from Graves’ base in NW Georgia; his opponent, Lee Hawkins, is counting on a big vote from his base in the eastern and central parts of this North Georgia district.

7:28 PM [Ed]. California polls show the “jungle primary” proposition (Prop 14) winning handily. It’s telling that the state Democratic Party and the unions who oppose it didn’t come up with serious money to fight it, which to me indicates they figured it would easily pass in the current hate-everybody political environment. The most vociferous opponents, the minor parties, who will lose their general election ballot lines, don’t have money, of course.

7:17 PM [Ed]. According to PPP’s recent breakdown of SC Republican gubernatorial primary preferances by area code (there are three, roughly corresponding to the Upcountry, Midlands, and Low Country regions of the state), Nikki Haley’s popularity is pretty evenly distributed around the state. So we should get some early indications of how she’s doing, and particularly of whether she has a chance to win without a runoff.

7:15 PM [Tom D]. What interests me most is whether CA adopts the Jungle Primary. Louisiana had it and got rid of it. CA is a liberal state, but unlike say, NY and MA, it has a very conservative Republican party. The result is that their primaries tend to nominate GOP candidates who can’t win. (None has won statewide office since Pete Wilson in ’94–except Arnold who came in initially under very special circumstances.) I’ve got to think that a Jungle Primary might revive the viable Republican in CA.

7:07 PM [Nate]. I don’t have a clear hunch about Arkansas, which is maybe the most interesting race of the night. There are three polls of the race, but they’re all from the same polling firm, Research 2000, and their work has been iffy lately.

7:06 PM [Nate]. Some hunches … don’t take these very seriously … Tarkanian may be overlooked in NV-SEN. Nikki Haley will do really well. Chuck DeVore will do better than his polling in California.

7:03 PM [Nate]. One thing I’m really looking forward to at the Times: they have some sweet new liveblogging software that they just debuted. This might be the last liveblog ever at the URL!

7:00 PM [Nate]. Polls just closed in South Carolina and Virginia. You can see South Carolina results as they come in here. We’ll be liveblogging tonight, of course, although I imagine that things will be fairly slow-paced, especially at first.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.