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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Notes On Today’s Midwestern Primaries

Today voters (20-25% of them, anyway) will trudge to the polls in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri to choose candidates for the November ballot. I’ve done a comprehensive preview over at FiveThirtyEight, and another at Progressive Fix will go up later today, but have a few additional thoughts here.
First of all, in terms of Republican primaries, it’s interesting that the main ideological contention in most races isn’t supposed affiliation with the Tea Party movement, but more traditional conservative preoccupations like abortion. This seems to be a midwestern thing to some extent (though the fine gradations of anti-abortion politics are also a big deal in the Republican gubernatorial runoff in Georgia), but it shows that the “uprising” associated with the Tea Party movement has meshed with the traditional agenda of the conservative movement, regardless of what we read about the laser-like focus of the Tea Folk on fiscal issues.
In at least one case, the Kansas Republican Senate primary, both candidates (Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran) have pretty much checked each other on association with the Tea Party movement, both having become charter members of Michele Bachmann’s House Tea Party Caucus, and both enjoying endorsements from Tea Folk heroes (Tiahrt’s been endorsed by Sarah Palin and Tom Tancredo, while Moran’s gotten the nod from Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn). So as a fascinating post from National Review’s Kathryn Lopez indicates, those looking for the “true conservative” in the race are getting really down in the weeds of discerning relative levels of commitment to the anti-abortion cause.
Second of all, today’s GOP primaries have an assortment of congressional contests with extremely crowded fields, in states that do not have a 50% requirement. So it’s possible we are going to see some really eccentric nominees who win with relatively small percentages of the vote.
And third of all, as noted in a separate FiveThirtyEight post, we are witnessing a very rare phenomenon in the Michigan governor’s race: a Republican candidate, Rick Snyder, who doesn’t seem to be competing for the True Conservative mantle, and in fact, has pursued endorsements from the state’s two most infamous RINOs, former Gov. Bill Milliken (who in turn endorsed John Kerry and Barack Obama for president), and former congressman Joe Schwarz, who’s set up an operation for Snyder aimed at attracting Democratic and independent crossover votes.
If Snyder wins–and he actually ran first in a recent EPIC-MRA poll of likely Republican primary voters–we could either see emulators of this strategy emerge elsewhere, or, more likely, some seriously angry talk among conservatives about how to make sure it doesn’t.
In any event, the results today will be interesting, and not just to the citizens of the three states directly involved.

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