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First thoughts: Tea Party wins again

The Tea Party wins again with Buck's victory in Colorado… But could the Tea Party end up costing the GOP two or more Senate seats?... The White House snaps its losing streak with Bennet's victory in Colorado… Another round of overtime for Deal and Handel?... Overall, the Democrats had a pretty good night… The only downsides: Dayton's win in Minnesota's gubernatorial primary and the fact that Linda McMahon is going to force them to spend a lot of money… Yesterday's Rangel debacle… It's NBC/WSJ poll day… And profiling MO-4.

*** Tea Party wins again: Lost in the White House's and DSCC's big win in Colorado, the likely second round of overtime for Republicans in Georgia, and perhaps the Democrats' best primary night of the year was this key development: The Tea Party won yet another key primary. In Colorado last night, Ken Buck held on to defeat establishment-backed Jane Norton, making him the fourth Tea Party candidate to win a Republican Senate primary this year, joining Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Mike Lee in Utah. And then you have Marco Rubio in Florida, who won his primary by default. On the one hand, the Tea Party is giving the GOP a jolt of energy and enthusiasm heading into the fall. For instance, more Coloradoans last night voted in the Republican Senate primary than the Democratic one; in fact, Norton and Buck both got more votes individually in their primary than Michael Bennet did in his, and Bennet won by a larger margin.

*** Could the Tea Party cost the GOP two or three Senate seats? On the other hand, there are legitimate concerns about whether Buck, Paul, and Angle are their party's best nominees and if they could enable Democrats to win these Senate contests in an environment where nearly everything is going the GOP's way. John Cornyn and the NRSC have been doing their job this cycle: putting seats in play and trying to recruit the most electable candidates (like Charlie Crist in Florida, Trey Grayson in Kentucky, Norton in Colorado or Dino Rossi in Washington). The problem is that GOP voters are defeating these establishment-backed candidates -- or, in Crist's case, forcing them out of the Republican primary. If Republicans lose two out of four in Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, and Nevada, it's hard to find a path to the 10 seats they need for control of the Senate. Buck, by the way, does seem to have some outside multimillionaire benefactors. The "Americans for Job Security" organization was restarted, in part, to help Buck get on the Colorado map. The NRSC is going to need a TON of outside money to keep Buck in the game, especially since the entire state GOP is a mess right now, thanks to the governor's race debacle.

*** Bennet bests Romanoff and relief in the White House: In the general election, Buck will face incumbent (and appointed) Sen. Michael Bennet, who defeated challenger Andrew Romanoff in last night's Democratic Senate primary in Colorado. Lots of Democratic groups are claiming credit for the Bennet win, including SEIU and the League of Conservation Voters. But the Obama White House can take a big sigh of relief. Not only did the Bennet victory snap Team Obama's losing streak when wading into races -- the governor races in New Jersey and Virginia, the loss in Massachusetts, and Arlen Specter's primary defeat in Pennsylvania -- but this win also took place in the presidential battleground of Colorado. Perhaps no state in the country in 2008 represented Obama's surge more than Colorado, where the Democrats held their convention and where Obama was able to pack some 80,000 into Invesco Field. If Obama didn't have coattails in a Democratic primary in Colorado, the White House would have some really big concerns… To say the White House is "relieved" is an understatement. The idea of dealing with a "Bill Clinton's candidate defeated Barack Obama's candidate" headline was beyond depressing to the West Wing.

*** Another round of overtime in Georgia: The other big story from last night was the deadlocked race between Palin-backed Karen Handel and Gingrich/Huckabee-backed Nathan Deal in the GOP gubernatorial run-off in Georgia. With 99% of the voted counted, Deal was leading Handel by fewer than 3,000 votes, which will likely trigger a recount. "Under Georgia law, the runner-up can request a re-count if the margin is less than 1 percent of the total vote," the AP says -- and the difference is well below 1%. At least in the short run, the unsettled race only helps Democratic nominee Roy Barnes, who won his primary outright last month.

*** A good night for the Democrats: Indeed, last night might have been the Democrats' best primary night of the year (of course the bar is kind of low). Bennet heads into the general election as the favorite in Colorado; John Hickenlooper may very well have locked up Colorado's gubernatorial race after Dan Maes defeated Scott McInnis in the GOP primary (and Maes won't get out of the race easily); Roy Barnes has the short-term edge with Georgia's GOP race still unsettled; and Dan Malloy's victory over Ned Lamont in Connecticut's gubernatorial primary probably gives Democrats their better general election candidate there.

*** Dayton beats Kelliher; McMahon will be a thorn in the Democrats' side: The only relatively bad news for Democrats was Mark Dayton's narrow win over Emily's List-backed Margaret Anderson Kelliher in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Minnesota (he lost the Twin Cities but won everywhere else). With his deep pockets, Dayton can still beat Republican Tom Emmer in the general election. But there's also a reason why Dayton -- a former U.S. senator -- didn't run for re-election in 2006. Meanwhile, in Connecticut's Senate contest, Linda McMahon will be a thorn in Democrats' side and will force them to spend more money than they want to in this race. But just asking, did anyone else catch that McMahon's husband, Vince, wasn't on the stage for her victory speech?

*** The Rangel debacle: Charlie Rangel might feel better after his own "Jet Blue moment" on the House floor yesterday, but all he did was make it harder for Democrats to stand by him. On a day when the Democrats believed they had a good story to tell -- passing legislation into law that saves teaching jobs, etc. -- Rangel stole the spotlight with his speech on the House floor. "I am not going away," he declared. What motivated him to give that speech at that time? A bad poll in his primary race? His desire to separate himself from Maxine Waters' own ethics problems? Whatever the reason, Rangel made sure that yesterday was about him, and not about Democrats passing key legislation. In fact, one of his quotes was "What about me?" You can't make it up.

*** NBC/WSJ poll day: How does the public feel about Congress' performance? President Obama's job? The upcoming midterms? The war in Afghanistan post-Wikileaks? Tune into NBC Nightly News at 6:30 pm ET, or click on to MSNBC.com, for the results from our brand-new NBC/WSJ poll.

*** 75 House races to watch: MO-4: The Democratic nominee is 17-term incumbent Ike Skelton, who was first elected in 1976. His GOP challenger will be former state Rep. Vicky Hartzler. McCain won 60% of the vote in this district in '08, while Bush got 64% in '04. As of June 30, Skelton had $1.4 million in the bank, and Hartzler had $240,000. Skelton voted yes for the stimulus and cap-and-trade, but no on health care. Both Cook and Rothenberg rate the race as Lean Democrat.

Countdown to WA and WY primaries: 6 days
Countdown to AK, AZ, FL, and VT primaries: 13 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 83 days

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