GOP primaries

GOP primaries

Palin backs Sen. Murkowski's primary opponent

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) endorsed a Republican primary challenger to incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Wednesday.

Palin said she is backing attorney Joe Miller in his GOP primary effort to unseat Murkowski, a member of the Senate Republican leadership.

{mosads}"I’m proud to join so many other long-time Alaskans in supporting Joe Miller in the upcoming Alaska Republican Primary," the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate wrote in a Facebook post.

"Unfortunately, Lisa Murkowski and much of the political establishment have recently evolved into being a bigger part of the big government problem in Washington, and they’ve strayed from the principles upon which they had espoused," Palin later added.

Palin's endorsement is arguably the most high-profile challenge she's made to establishment Republicans in Washington, where Murkowski serves as vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Palin and the Murkowski family, an Alaska political dynasty, have suffered from legendarily frosty relations. Palin challenged Murkowski's father, incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), in a 2006 Republican primary that led to Palin eventually winning the general election.

Since then, Murkowski has openly warned Palin against backing a GOP challenger to her reelection, and blasted the governor when she resigned from office last year.

"I am deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded," Murkowski said last year.

While Palin had stayed on the sidelines until now in the race, her husband, Todd Palin, had openly been backing Miller's candidacy.

The primary is August 24.

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Gingrich: Bennett not perceived as enough of a fighter

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Sunday that even though he had endorsed Sen. Robert Bennett, his ousting last weekend at Utah's GOP convention was a "sign of anger of the American people."

"Bennett is a very reasonable person," Gingrich said. "I think they wanted someone to come and fight."

The speaker said on "Fox News Sunday" that he expected the voter anger to carry through into the fall.

"I think voters are very upset and should be," he said, predicting that Republican Meg Whitman would win the governor's seat in California.

Gingrich also commented on the race between Democrats Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, with an aside to former GOP Specter.

"I did one of his last Republican fundraisers for him and always wished he returned the money," he said.

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Hatch not taking sides in race to replace Bennett

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) Tuesday would not say which candidate he supports to replace his ousted colleague, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah).

Delegates at the state GOP convention this weekend did not select the three-term senator to appear on the primary ballot, meaning that political newcomers Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater will vie for the party's nomination.

Observers say Bennett's stunning defeat is a further sign incumbents will be in trouble this fall.

"Either one of them would be a good senator and I have to go by what the population says," Hatch said on MSNBC.

The senior senator said that he too would have trouble winning reelection in this political climate.

"If I would have been up this year, it would be difficult for anybody," he said.

Hatch lamented the loss of his colleague, saying he "felt very badly for Sen. Bennett."

Cross-posted to the Briefing Room

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Several more incumbents approaching tough primaries

Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Mark Souder (R-Ind.) emerged from Tuesday’s primaries bruised but unbeaten. Their performances, however, won’t do much to hearten members worried about their own primaries.

So, as we talk about this pervasive anti-incumbent mood, who’s next? In fact, several other members of Congress will learn their primary fates in the coming days and weeks.

The Ballot Box looks at incumbents who could fall in the next month:

Saturday – Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah): The three-term senator has turned into an underdog at his state party convention this weekend, and recent polls suggest he might not even make the final ballot at the convention, which would effectively end his tenure in the Senate.

Tuesday – Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.): Mollohan faces state Sen. Mike Oliverio, who nearly outraised him in the first quarter and led him 41-33 in an internal poll two weeks ago.

May 18 – Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.): Could two Democratic senators fall on one primary day? They could. Both Lincoln and Specter have seen their leads shrink to single digits. The most vulnerable man that day, though, might be Kanjorski, who faces Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brien.

June 1 – Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.): Much like Specter, Griffith is dealing with the aftermath of a party switch. He went the other way, to become a Republican, and the GOP primary never cleared. Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks and businessman Les Phillip will battle with Griffith over who is the real conservative Republican in the race.

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Renacci gets past stubborn primary opponent, will face Rep. Boccieri

Businessman Jim Renacci, a top GOP recruit, has survived a primary scare and will face Rep. John Boccieri (D-Ohio) in November.

Renacci faced former Ashland County Commissioner Matt Miller, a meagerly funded candidate who had nonetheless taken 42 percent of the vote in each of the past two primaries in the district. Miller turned in a similar performance this time, but Renacci led him 49-41 with 75 percent of precincts in. The race has been called for Renacci.

Renacci has achieved the second step of the NRCC's Young Guns program for top challengers, and his strong fundraising has made him a candidate the party has heralded as someone who could lead the GOP back to the majority.

Another member of the Young Guns program, Ohio state Sen. Bob Gibbs, was struggling with his primary in the nearby 18th district. Gibbs trailed 2008 nominee Fred Dailey 21.6 percent to 21.2 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting in Rep. Zack Space's (D-Ohio) district. The primary may require a recount.

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GOP gets Young, Bucshon for top Indiana targets

Attorney Todd Young and Dr. Larry Bucshon will be the GOP nominees in a pair of top pickup opportunities in southern Indiana.

Young defeated a field that included former Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-Ind.) to win the nod to face Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), while Bucshon survived a scare from a Tea Party candidate an will be the party’s candidate in Rep. Brad Ellsworth’s (R-Ind.) district.

Buschon led 33-29 with 94 percent of precincts, while Young led activist Travis Hankins 34-32 with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Sodrel was third, with 31 percent.

In a cycle that features many former members of Congress running for their old seats, Sodrel was the first to actually face voters.

Sodrel and Young were both part of the NRCC’s Young Guns program for top challengers, but party leaders will be happy to turn the page on Sodrel. In four straight races against Hill, he has lost three times, including by 20 points in 2008.

Bucshon was the only candidate in his district to be part of the Young Guns program. He will face state Rep. Trent Van Haaften, who was unopposed on the Democratic side. Ellsworth is running for Senate.

Both races are widely considered to be toss-ups.

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Rep. Burton survives big primary scare, but is under 30 percent

Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) won his primary Tuesday, but he took less than 30 percent of vote.

Burton beat former state Rep. Luke Messer 29.7 percent to 27.6 percent, with 99.4 percent of precincts reporting. Three more candidates, including the man who nearly beat Burton in 2008, Dr. John McGoff, split up the rest of the vote.

Most of the candidates were well-funded. They tried at certain points in the race to narrow the field to face Burton, but in the end, nobody would step aside, and Burton benefitted.

Burton’s win was about as tenuous as they come, but his district is a safe one for Republicans.

Burton wasn’t the only incumbent to face a scare in the state Tuesday. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) won his primary with less than 50 percent of the vote, defeating car dealer Bob Thomas 48-34.

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