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First thoughts: Anger trumps accomplishments

Stunning development: Murkowski trails Miller by 1,960 votes in AK GOP Senate primary… We might not know the final result for days... How to explain why McCain easily won in AZ but Murkowski is in trouble: Anger is trumping accomplishments… That’s a lesson vulnerable Democrats might want to learn… If Miller wins, he’d be the fifth Tea Party insurgent to win a GOP Senate primary… Palin-ism bests Stevens-ism?... In FL, it’s Sink vs. Scott for governor, and Crist vs. Meek vs. Rubio for the Senate… How the Conventional Wisdom has been wrong in the Sunshine State…. And profiling NM-2.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Anger trumps accomplishments: So much for the idea that insiders were making a comeback last night. In a stunning development in Alaska's GOP Senate primary, incumbent Lisa Murkowski (R) trails virtually unknown Joe Miller, who was backed by the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, by 1,960 votes with 98% of precincts reporting. In Florida, meanwhile, wealthy outsider Rick Scott bested establishment politician Bill McCollum, even though McCollum led in some late polls. And proving that all it takes to triumph in a crowded GOP field in Arizona is to air an incendiary TV ad aimed at the president -- plus have a famous last name and the most money -- Ben Quayle won the Republican primary for the open congressional seat vacated by Rep. John Shadegg (R). In addition to being blows to Conventional Wisdom and some polling, these results tell us something very significant about American politics right now: The candidates who are channeling the public’s anger best are winning, especially on the GOP side. One observer put it this way: If 2008 was about "hope," then 2010 might be about “fear" -- with Republicans running on fear of Obama/Dems, while Dems will be running on fear of returning to Bush/GOP policies.

*** Why McCain won and Murkowski is in trouble: In fact, this explains why someone like John McCain cruised to victory last night in Arizona and Murkowski didn’t. McCain -- though it meant reversing himself on some key issues like immigration -- picked up the pitchfork and channeled the growing anger on the right. Murkowski, on the other hand, touted her record and what she had done for Alaska. Indeed, how McCain ran his campaign could very well be a model for Democrats or any troubled incumbent in November: go negative and peel the paint off of your opponent. Incumbents who run on what they’ve done in D.C. and for their constituents back home are wasting their time and money. Or as one observer put it to us: "Anyone running positive TV ads right now is better off giving that money to charity." Positive doesn't work until you've completely dismantled your opponent (see: Hayworth, J.D.).

*** The Tea Party wins again? If Miller ends up beating Murkowski -- and we probably won’t know the outcome for more than a week from now, with absentee ballots still to be counted -- the senator would become the seventh incumbent to lose this cycle, joining Bob Bennett in UT, Alan Mollohan in WV, Arlen Specter in PA, Parker Griffith in AL, Bob Inglis in SC, and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick in MI. But more importantly, Miller would become the fifth Tea Party insurgent to win a GOP Senate primary, following Mike Lee in UT, Rand Paul in KY, Sharron Angle in NV, and Ken Buck in CO. (A Dem operative emails First Read that Murkowski would be the seventh NRSC candidate, and second sitting member, to go down this cycle.) Perhaps one of the most underreported stories heading into November is what the U.S. Senate -- the world's greatest deliberative body -- would look like next year with these Tea Partiers as members. Bennett and Murkowski were known as Republicans who would cut deals. But what happens when you replace these folks with Lee or Miller? Then again, partisans on both the left and right want to blow up the Senate, so they very might get their wish.

*** Palin-ism vs. Stevens-ism, revisited: Yesterday, we explained that Murkowski was likely heading to victory because the Tea Party and Palin-ism don’t have as much pull in Alaska as in other states; Alaska, after all, has benefited so much from federal spending. Well, you can now scratch that. Check out what Miller told our affiliate in Anchorage last night: "Alaskans are prepared to enter a new era of politics -- an era of self-dependency." That is a full-fledged rejection of the "Uncle Ted Stevens" way of representing the state. Msnbc.com’s Vaughn Ververs (a one-time Alaska resident himself) reminds us that it didn’t help Murkowski that she was appointed to her Senate seat by her father. That’s obviously something that Alaskans still remember, and it looks like it came back to haunt her. Finally, for those making the point how Sarah Palin helped power Joe Miller, consider that the last GOP primary candidate Palin actually stumped for on the campaign trail -- Karen Handel in Georgia -- lost her run-off two weeks ago.

*** How Conventional Wisdom has been wrong in Florida… : With Florida's general-election field now set -- it's Scott (R) vs. Alex Sink (D) for governor, and Charlie Crist (I) vs. Kendrick Meek (D) vs. Marco Rubio (R) for Senate -- it's worth remembering how wrong Conventional Wisdom has been in the Sunshine State so far this year. Many thought Crist was a goner after making his indie bid for the Senate. Now? He has been leading the three-way race in many polls (for whatever they are worth this year!). Many thought Bill McCollum and Kendrick Meek were shoo-ins to win their party's nominations. Then came along Rick Scott and Jeff Greene, both of whom took the lead as of a few weeks ago. And just as soon as some polls showed McCollum ahead in the final days of the race, Scott ends up winning. Go figure.

*** … and how it could be wrong come November: Now Conventional Wisdom has now settled on two these two storylines: 1) that Dem nominee Sink -- because of the divisive McCollum-Scott primary -- has the short-term advantage in the gubernatorial contest, and 2) that Meek will take away Dem votes from Crist. But if the past has been any guide in Florida this year, beware of the Conventional Wisdom. We just don’t know how either race will play out. (There's even the Bud Chiles factor that some Republicans are clinging to. The son of the late Gov./Sen. Lawton, is on the ballot and because Crist is bringing more attention to indies, he could find traction if he gets the money.) But what we DO know is that the Democratic Governors Association will need to spend its money in Florida to counter Scott’s millions. That could very well mean less money for folks like Gov. Pat Quinn in IL and Dan Onorato in PA or any other Democrat running in states that aren't Florida, Colorado, or Ohio. So while Haley Barbour might not have wanted Scott, he's going to save money there, as well as in California.

*** 75 House races to watch: NM-2: The Democratic nominee is first-term incumbent and oil businessman Harry Teague. The GOP nominee is former Congressman Steve Pearce, who served three terms in Congress before unsuccessfully running for Senate in 2008. McCain won 50% of the vote in this district in ’08, while Bush got 58% here in ’04. As of June 30, Teague had $1.17 million in the bank, and Pearce had $1.02 million. Teague voted for the stimulus and cap-and-trade, but against health care. Cook rates the contest as a Toss-Up while Rothenberg rates it Lean Republican.

Countdown to Election Day 2010: 69 days

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