Senate Primaries: Match-Ups Set in Four Key States

Nathan L. Gonzales June 13, 2012 · 11:43 AM EDT

No surprises in yesterday’s Senate primaries, but general election matchups are set in four key states: Maine, North Dakota, Nevada and Virginia.

The most interesting result of the night may have been in Maine, where state Sen. Cynthia Dill secured the Democratic nomination with about 45 percent in a four-candidate race.

Since national Democrats have already cast their lot with former Independent Gov. Angus King in the general election, Dill can expect plenty of unreturned phone calls from Democratic strategists and donors who traditionally support their nominees. Even though King has not said which party he will caucus with, he starts the general election with a strong lead in the polls and national Democrats are willing to take a chance that he’ll caucus with them when he comes to Washington.

Secretary of State Charlie Summers won the GOP nomination with nearly 30 percent against five opponents. To have a real chance in the fall, he will need Dill and King to divide voters on the left and in the center , allowing him to win with a plurality. A former legislator and Congressional candidate, Summers was appointed to his non-elective post.

A big question is whether Democrats can torpedo Dill’s candidacy by ignoring her and signaling to donors not to give to her, or whether they will need to attack her to make sure she doesn’t gain any traction.

The Maine seat leans toward King (and thus toward Democrats), but Dill has a reputation as a feisty liberal and she isn’t likely to go away quietly. If she can raise resources, she’ll likely have to go after King, not Summers, first. Given that, this race should not be completely ignored just yet.

In Virginia, former senator and governor George Allen cruised to the GOP nomination with 66 percent. His margin of victory was somewhat of a surprise since he’s easily painted as an establishment Republican, but tea party-backed Jamie Radtke received 23 percent and conservative state Del. Bob Marshall garnered just only 7 percent.

Allen now faces former governor and DNC chairman Tim Kaine in what is, and will continue to be, one of the closest Senate races in the country. If you see a poll that has either candidate ahead outside the margin of error, be skeptical.

The same can be said for Nevada, where Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) and Sen. Dean Heller (R) won their nominations yesterday without fanfare and will continue their battle in another very competitive contest.

And in North Dakota, Rep. Rick Berg won the GOP primary with over 66 percent of the vote and will face former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp in the fall. We interviewed Heitkamp last week and she is an impressive candidate. Republicans have their hands full and the race looks even right now. But we continue to believe that over the course of the campaign the increasingly partisan national environment will spill over into the Peace Garden State, making Heitkamp’s challenge increasingly difficult. Obviously, if that doesn’t happen, we would revisit our Lean Republican rating.