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First thoughts: Super Duper Tuesday

Our five storylines to watch in tomorrow’s Super Duper Tuesday contests: 1) Will Blanche Lincoln lose her run-off and continue the anti-incumbent narrative?... 2) Is Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle going to win in Nevada -- and create a path for a Harry Reid victory?... 3) Has South Carolina cemented its reputation as the “stink hole” of GOP politics?... 4) Are the ex-CEOs going to win in California? … 5) And are the ex-governors going to win in California and Iowa?... Obama heads to Michigan to deliver high school commencement… Before that, Obama and his cabinet discuss the oil spill in the Gulf… Has Jim Greer become the Rod Blagojevich of Florida politics?… And taking note of Mike Huckabee’s gubernatorial endorsements.

*** Super Duper Tuesday: Unlike the May 18 contests that told us something about the national environment -- anti-incumbency (Specter’s loss), the backlash at the establishment (Paul’s victory over Grayson), and the reminder that good candidates and campaigns can win in a tough political environment (PA-12) -- Tuesday’s primaries don’t really offer broad themes. But they will fill important holes in the midterm puzzle. In California, we’ll get the GOP nominees to face Sen. Barbara Boxer and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Brown. In Nevada, we’ll find out who will face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the fall. And in South Carolina, we’ll see which Republican gubernatorial candidates advance to the June 22 run-off, which takes place if none of the four contenders gets over 50%. There will be other primaries in Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Virginia. And there are five storylines we’re watching…

*** Will the anti-incumbent story continue? The most newsworthy contest tomorrow -- at least in the short term -- is the Blanche Lincoln-vs.-Bill Halter run-off in Arkansas. If Lincoln goes down, and all the signs are pointing in that direction, then she would become the fifth incumbent to lose so far in this election cycle, joining Utah Sen. Bob Bennett (R), West Virginia Rep. Alan Mollohan (D), Pennsylvania Sen. Specter (D), and Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith (R). (If you include all D.C. candidates this cycle, like Kay Bailey Hutchison and Artur Davis, she’d be the seventh Washington politician to go down to defeat. And if Nevada GOP Gov. Jim Gibbons loses his primary tomorrow, as expected, he’ll be the first incumbent governor to go down this cycle.) By the way, it's been 30 years since we've seen three incumbent senators lose before general elections.

*** Is Harry Reid catching a break? A new Las Vegas Review-Journal/Mason-Dixon poll shows Sharron Angle leading the GOP field for the right to take on Harry Reid in the fall. Angle -- backed by the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth -- is at 32%, Danny Tarkanian is at 24%, and one-time front-runner Sue Lowden is at 23%. An Angle win tomorrow would further the Tea Party political narrative, and it would represent a major break for Reid. Why? Because as the Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy observes, there’s a very good chance the country is going to get to know her the same way it got to meet Rand Paul. Jill Lawrence on Angle’s positions and controversies: "Eliminate EPA and the Energy Department amid a disastrous oil spill? Privatize Social Security right after the plunging stock market decimated 401(K) plans for millions? Lobby to bring nuclear fuel to a state that has fought tooth and nail against the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository?" Keep an eye on a POTENTIAL pattern regarding the Tea Party: more success in small states (KY and NV); harder to break through the casual GOP electorates in bigger states (see IL SEN, for instance).

*** Is South Carolina cementing its reputation as the “stink hole” of GOP politics? South Carolina's reputation for no-holds barred political combat was cemented after George W. Bush finished off John McCain in that brutal 2000 presidential primary contest. But this year's GOP primary for governor to replace the now-infamous philanderer, Mark Sanford, is taking nasty to a whole other level. State Rep. Nikki Haley -- the first Indian-American woman to hold office in the state – is now the front-runner in this four-person contest, despite accusations by two GOP operatives (none of which have been proven) that she committed adultery with him. What’s more, another GOP official referred to her (and to President Obama) as a “raghead.” As political analyst Stu Rothenberg told NBC: “South Carolina has become the stink hole of Republican politics in this country.”

*** The rise of the ex-CEOs? Here’s a fourth storyline we’re watching: Are California Republicans going to nominate two ex-CEOs for the top two spots on the ballot this year? It sure looks like it. Ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman is the favorite tomorrow to capture the gubernatorial nomination, while ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is the front-runner to challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer. The Whitman-Fiorina combo would be a delicious story for news organizations this fall. Yet beyond their hefty bank accounts, has either woman actually shown enough political promise and savvy to win in blue California? By the way, don't assume Whitman and Fiorina are natural allies; in fact, it’s just the opposite. Whitman drove Tom Campbell out of the CA GOV primary in order to run for the Senate to stop Fiorina. The Whitman folks are worried about the "dual CEO" storyline -- big time, especially since Whitman's e-Bay track record is a good one, while Fiorina's HP days are, well, not as stellar.

*** Back to the Future? Finally, it appears that we’re going to see two more ex-governors win tomorrow -- Jerry Brown (D) in California and Terry Branstad (R) in Iowa. Ex-Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) already won his Dem primary last month, and Bob Ehrlich (R) in Maryland and Roy Barnes (D) in Georgia are also running in primaries…

*** School’s out … for Summer: At 7:00 pm ET in Michigan, President Obama will deliver the commencement address to the Kalamazoo Central High School Class of 2010, which won the administration’s Top High School Commencement Challenge. He'll then sit down with NBC's Matt Lauer for an exclusive interview, set to air on “TODAY” Tuesday.

*** The spill and Capitol Hill: Before then, at 11:00 am ET, Obama meets with his Cabinet to discuss the response to the oil spill in the Gulf and will receive a briefing from Thad Allen (a pool spray takes place at the end of the meeting). Yet with Congress returning from its Memorial Day recess, the real political action on the spill might come from the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue. Does the energy legislation have new life? Also, keep an eye on a real split in the Democratic caucus over the temporary offshore drilling moratorium. Jobs vs. environment? Does that become the debate?

*** The Rod Blagojevich of Florida politics? Turning back to the midterms, the Jim Greer story in Florida is potentially bad news for Charlie Crist -- just as the governor was thrust into the spotlight with the oil spill (in fact, he’s appeared more with Obama in the past two weeks than Kendrick Meek has). Indeed, Greer could very well be the Rod Blagojevich of Florida politics. Check out this Miami Herald story: “Gov. Charlie Crist personally signed off on his former Republican Party chairman's confidential fundraising role with the state party, according to Jim Greer's attorney, whose allegation contradicts the governor's statement that he "didn't know anything" about the deal now part of a criminal investigation.” Of course, it's Greer's word vs. Crist's, and while the guy seems to have the credibility of a Blagojevich, it doesn't mean there won't be a lot of collateral damage.

*** Huckabee's long shots: While much has been made of the GOP candidates Sarah Palin has endorsed -- and the DCCC is today highlighting those candidates -- it’s worth pointing out that Mike Huckabee has made some endorsements too in gubernatorial contests in two HUGE presidential states. But they are long shots: Andre Bauer in South Carolina and Bob Vander Plaats in Iowa. By the way, Chuck Norris stumped for Vander Plaats on Saturday…

*** More midterm news: In Kansas, “Rep. Jerry Moran is airing his first spot that hits back directly against negative ads from his opponent in the Republican Senate primary, fellow Rep. Todd Tiahrt," Politico writes… And in Kentucky, the Sunday New York Times profiled the Pauls -- the “First Family of Libertarianism.”

Countdown to CA, IA, ME, NV, ND, SC, SD, and VA primaries, and AR run-off: 1 day
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 148 days

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