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First thoughts: Lincoln's surprise

Blanche Lincoln’s surprise win delivers a blow to organized labor and the internet left… Harry Reid catches his break with Angle winning in Nevada… Although Lincoln survived, it still wasn’t a good night for other incumbents… Nikki Haley and 2012… The ladies (Lincoln, Angle, Haley, Whitman, and Fiorina) have a big night, but only one heads into November as the clear front-runner… Meg Whitman spent about $80 per vote (!!!)… Obama meets with Abbas at White House.


*** Lincoln's surprise: So what was the most surprising story of the night -- Stephen Strasburg's dominating pitching debut, the Lakers' road win in Game 3, or Sen. Blanche Lincoln's stunning win in Arkansas over Bill Halter? We'll take Door No. 3. Simply put, Lincoln's narrow victory was a crushing blow to organized labor and the internet left, which had rallied around Halter. "Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise," a senior White House official boasted to Politico’s Ben Smith. (Question: Why does the White House want dance on labor’s grave by pushing a storyline that the media was already all over anyway? After all, labor is still an important Dem ally, it played a big role in health care, and can help in states where they actually have members.) Last night also was a big win for Bill Clinton, who had campaigned for the conservative-leaning Lincoln. (Just askin', but who bets more campaigns will call Rahm Emanuel requesting Bill Clinton's time this fall?) Perhaps more than anything else, labor’s millions against Lincoln turned her into the outsider in this contest, and that is still a unifying theme to all the primaries -- Democrat and Republican -- so far this year. The one bright stop for organized labor: It now has a new famous union member -- Strasburg (of the Major League Baseball Players Association).

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*** Harry Reid catches his break: Despite Lincoln's comeback win, it doesn't really alter the general election contest -- Republican Rep. John Boozman is heading into November as the strong favorite in this Senate contest, although don’t be surprised if Lincoln gets a bounce from her victory. (We'll have a real sense of this race in about three weeks; if she can't use this bounce and turn it into a narrow single-digit race now; then how will she do it in the fall?) But the race that did impact November was in Nevada, where Tea Party Express-backed Sharron Angle won the GOP Senate primary, and her victory now gives Harry Reid a path to victory. As the New York Times writes of Angle, “[S]he has called for the privatization of Social Security, the elimination of the Department of Energy, and cutting back regulation on Wall Street, all positions that could give Mr. Reid’s well-financed campaign ammunition to use in television advertisements against her. She also does not have the organization or financial resources that Mr. Reid is bringing to the race.” If Republicans wind up netting just four or five Senate seats -- versus eight to 10 -- the party's less-than-stellar nominees in places like Kentucky and Nevada (which to the NRSC's credit, they tried to fix) will be a big reason why.



*** The anti-incumbency story still lives on: While Lincoln's win last night blunted the anti-incumbent narrative that has been growing since last month, it wasn't a great night for all incumbents. In Nevada, embattled Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) became the first sitting governor this cycle to lose a primary; Brian Sandoval (R) will face off against Rory Reid (D) in that contest. And in South Carolina, conservative-moderate GOP Rep. Bob Inglis is going to need to borrow some of Lincoln's magic now that he's headed for a June 22 run-off against Trey Gowdy. (Gowdy got 39% of the vote, versus Inglis’ 28%.)

*** Nikki Haley and 2012: The result last night with the biggest impact on 2012 was Nikki Haley's 49% in South Carolina’s GOP gubernatorial primary -- more than double the percentage her closest competitor (Gresham Barrett) received. Haley fell short of avoiding a June 22 run-off against Barrett, but she heads into that contest in a very strong position. As First Readers know well, South Carolina plays a crucial role in GOP presidential nomination battles; in fact, going back to 1980, every winner of the South Carolina presidential primary has gone on to capture the GOP nomination. And given that Haley was endorsed by both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, it might be difficult for Haley to avoid what Mark Sanford was able to do in 2008: stay neutral. Also, given that Haley is perhaps the most conservative candidate in the entire GOP gubernatorial field -- she has supported calls for Lindsey Graham’s censure -- she could very well push the 2012 Republican field to the right.

*** Ladies night: Last night didn’t really offer a sweeping big theme, but if there was one, it was probably the success that female candidates had, particularly on the Republican side of the aisle. In addition to the Lincoln, Haley, and Angle victories, Meg Whitman (for governor) and Carly Fiorina (for the Senate) won last night in California. However, this “Ladies Night” storyline could be short lived because none of these women -- except for Haley -- would be the clear front-runner going into the general election. That said, Democratic men (like Harry Reid) might find it a bit more difficult going on the attack against these women, no matter their records. As Obama and Biden found out in the fall of 2008 with Sarah Palin, you have to walk a very fine line when trying to take down a female candidate. What’s more, the rise of CONSERVATIVE women in other states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona makes it harder for Democrats to paint the Tea Party/conservative movement as simply a bunch of angry white guys. Haley and Martinez in New Mexico are white, even if they are just as conservative as rank-and-file want them to be. If there is a Republican wave, the bench of women candidates for the Republicans in the future is going to be a LOT fuller than what the Democrats are developing.

*** $80 million for $1 million votes: Speaking of Whitman, it has been reported that she spent $80 million in her primary battle. Well, with her receiving slightly more than 1 million votes, that comes to Whitman spending $80 per vote. Not exactly the most efficient way to spend money…

*** Elsewhere last night: Here’s a quick wrap of the other contests we were watching: In California, the ballot measure enabling the top-two finishers in state primaries -- regardless of party -- passed, giving Arnold Schwarzenegger a win… Also in California, “birther” leader Orly Taitz got crushed, while Rep. Jane Harman (D) withstood a primary challenge from the left… In Georgia, conservative Tom Graves (R) won the run-off to fill the remainder of Nathan Deal’s (R) term in Congress; Deal is running for governor… And in Iowa, ex-Gov. Terry Branstad (R) won the right to take on incumbent Gov. Chet Culver (D) in the fall.

*** Obama and Abbas: Turning to news at the White House, President Obama meets at 11:00 am ET with Palestinian Authority President Abbas (which is closed to the press), and then holds a bilateral with him at 11:30 am (there will be a pool spray at the bottom of the meeting). At 2:00 pm, Obama receives a briefing on the Gulf oil spill.

Countdown to UT primary and NC and SC run-offs: 13 days
Countdown to AL run-off: 34 days
Countdown to GA primary: 41 days
Countdown to OK primary: 48 days
Countdown to KS and MO primaries: 55 days
Countdown to CO and CT primaries: 62 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 146 days

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