Super Tuesday begins the 2010 primary season across the country

It’s the first Super Tuesday of the 2010 election cycle, and both parties are waiting to see if the anti-incumbent mood has any effect on their favored candidates.

Democrats, who fear losing seats this cycle, want their strongest contenders to move on to November, while Republicans hope to set the stage for a 2010 sweep.

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The action takes place in three big states — Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio — in the first multi-state primary of the year.

The Hill offers a look at some of the key storylines:


Will the Democrats get their man in North Carolina?

This question probably won’t get answered Tuesday, unless the answer is no.

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D) remains the favorite heading into her primary with former state Sen. Cal Cunningham. Cunningham was recruited into the race by national Democrats concerned about Marshall’s viability in a race against Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

In the primary, she leads Cunningham 28-21, with 33 percent undecided, according to a new Public Policy Polling (D) survey. But a candidate needs 40 percent to win outright; otherwise the top two will go to a runoff.

Marshall has actually grown her lead in recent days, and Cunningham has been unable to financially overwhelm her. At this point, Cunningham’s side is playing for a runoff.

Marshall said the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s (DSCC) dabbling has backfired.

“It’s been there, but a lot of people have been angered by them trying to tip the scales,” Marshall said. “And that’s helped me. North Carolinians are very independent.”

Cunningham adviser Morgan Jackson said: “We feel like he has caught up with her. A lot of folks believe we’re headed for a runoff, and we think we can use the next several weeks to really launch the campaign.”

If Marshall can’t get to 40 percent, the runoff is June 22.


Can Dan Coats deliver a convincing win?

Former Sen. Dan Coats’s (R-Ind.) campaign hasn’t done much to close the door on Democrats’ chances of keeping retiring Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-Ind.) seat. But Coats has a real opportunity to change that Tuesday.

Coats is the favorite heading into primary day, while state Sen. Marlin Stutzman (R) has drawn some momentum from Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) endorsement.

That said, Stutzman was still in third place in the last numbers available on the race — a SurveyUSA poll last week that had Coats at 36 percent, former Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) at 24 and Stutzman at 18.

If Coats can make this a no-doubter and get up around 50 percent of the vote, he would do himself a big favor. Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) trails big in some recent general-election polling, but nobody is counting him out at this point.


How big does Lee Fisher win?

Much like with Coats, there was some doubt about whether Ohio Lt. Gov. Fisher (D) could close the door on his Senate primary competitor.

He has done a pretty good job of it, leading Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner by at least 17 points in three straight polls after a $900,000 media blitz that Brunner simply couldn’t match.

But Brunner said the race won’t be a blowout.

“Sometimes the candidate on the ground is one of the best polls you have, and I’m not feeling [a blowout] on the ground,” she said. “If there is a loss, it’s certainly not going to be a 20-point loss.”

Democratic leaders expect Fisher to emerge by double digits, but even if he blows Brunner away, he won’t come away looking like an electoral giant.

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He has drained his resources significantly, while his general-election opponent, former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), has $7.6 million. The good news, though, is that the most recent general-election polling shows Fisher starting that race with a small lead.

“There’s no question that we have some catch-up, but I am very confident that with [the] party unifying soon after the primary ... we will have all the resources we need to be competitive with Rep. Portman,” Fisher said.


Do GOP incumbents struggle or lose in their primaries?

Two Republicans in Indiana could be under 50 percent in their primaries, and two more face notable primary opponents.

The most embattled incumbents Tuesday appear to be Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Mark Souder (R-Ind.). But both are still expected to win.

Burton faces four well-funded opponents who risk splitting up the anti-incumbent vote, while a recent poll showed Souder leading primary challenger Bob Thomas just 35-29. Thomas, a car dealer, has self-funded $220,000 for the race.

Another incumbent facing a well-funded primary is Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), whose primary opponent, Scott Keadle, self-funded $250,000 for his race.

Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), who has had some trouble in her primary before, faces Warren County Commissioner Mike Kilburn, but Kilburn hasn’t raised much money.

Whether they lose or not, the fate of these four incumbents will be watched by plenty of other incumbents around the country.


Do Republicans get their candidates?

The GOP has high hopes nationwide, but it needs to get some lesser-known candidates through their primaries first.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) already saw one of its Young Guns participants, Illinois House candidate Ethan Hastert, lose a primary. And to date, only one other participant has faced a real primary.

That changes Tuesday.

In Indiana, Republicans hope to be able to run state Rep. Jackie Walorski against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Dr. Larry Bucshon for the open seat left by Ellsworth.

In Ohio, they hope businessman Jim Renacci and state Sen. Bob Gibbs emerge to face Reps. John Boccieri (D-Ohio) and Zack Space (D-Ohio), respectively.

And in North Carolina, businessman Jeff Miller is the only Young Guns participant in the race to face Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.).

Some of these are not easy calls. Miller has been narrowly outspent by Dr. Dan Eichenbaum; Renacci faces a repeat candidate who has taken 42 percent of the vote in each of the last two primaries; and Gibbs faces 2008 nominee Fred Dailey.

The approach has been much more hands-off in the race to face Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), where former Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-Ind.) is the favorite, and also in the race to face Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), where several candidates are battling it out.

In the race to replace Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita (R) is favored to win the primary and be a strong favorite in the general election.

Top GOP recruits former Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and former Ohio state Sen. Steve Stivers are not expected to have much trouble in the primaries to face Reps. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) and Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), respectively, and neither is top Democratic hope Paula Brooks, who is primed to face Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio).