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First thoughts: Top 10 Election Night upsets

Note: On Fridays during this month of August, we’re scaling back our morning note. But we’re still providing something to read as you head to the beach or take advantage (hopefully) of a long weekend.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** First Read’s Top 10 Election Night upsets: After Tuesday’s shocking political outcome in Alaska, we came up with what we consider the Top 10 Election Night upsets so far this 2009-2010 cycle.

1. Scott Brown tops Martha Coakley: Maybe the biggest overall upset since Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire primary victory. Coakley was supposed to be a sure thing in the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in blue Massachusetts. But out of nowhere, Brown began gaining ground on Coakley in the polls. On Election Night, he pulled off the stunner, ending the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority.

2. Joe Miller vs. Lisa Murkowski: Tuesday’s Alaska Senate GOP primary -- which Miller now leads by 1,668 votes, with absentee ballots still be counted -- turned Conventional Wisdom on its head and reminded us that no incumbent is safe this cycle.

3. Lincoln edges Halter: Remember when the polls and C.W. pointed to Bill Halter beating Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic Senate run-off in Arkansas? Well, Lincoln pulled off the upset. Unfortunately for her, repeating that feat in November will be much more difficult.

4. NY-23: Democrat Bill Owens capitalized on GOP-vs.-Tea Party infighting and captured the special congressional election victory on Election Day 2009.

5. Meet Alvin Greene: In a South Carolina primary dominated by the competitive -- and salacious -- GOP gubernatorial race, unknown Alvin Greene bested state lawmaker and judge Vic Rawl to win the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Afterward, we discovered that Greene was unemployed and had been arrested on a charge of felony obscenity.

6. Nikki Haley turns into GOP star: Speaking of that GOP gubernatorial race in South Carolina, state Rep. Nikki Haley rode a Sarah Palin endorsement to beat some of the biggest names in state politics -- Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, state Attorney General Henry McMaster, and Rep. Gresham Barrett. Yes, Haley led in the polls heading into the primary, and she cruised to victory in the run-off. But considering where she came from, that’s an upset in our book.

7. Deal vs. Handel: Although the Palin endorsement helped Haley, it wasn’t enough for Karen Handel, who -- in a bit of a surprise -- lost her GOP gubernatorial run-off in Georgia against ex-Rep. Nathan Deal.

8. Scott beats McCollum: Fueled by the millions of dollars he poured into the race, Rick Scott jumped out to a lead over Bill McCollum in the GOP primary for Florida governor. But some late polls showed McCollum retaking the lead. Scott, however, pulled out the win on Tuesday.

9. Labrador fetches a win: In Idaho’s GOP congressional primary, Vaughn Ward was the establishment’s top choice to take on incumbent Dem Rep. Walt Minnick. But after a series of gaffes by Ward -- including allegations of plagiarizing Obama’s famous 2004 convention speech -- Raul Labrador won the contest.

10. Just Askins: Despite trailing in the polls, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins defeated state Attorney General Drew Edmondson in Oklahoma’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Askins now faces Republican Mary Fallin in the race to become the state’s first female governor.

*** UPDATE *** The Hotline's Dan Roem reminds us of two other upsets this cycle: Robert Bentley winning Alabama's GOP gubernatorial primary, and Ron Sparks defeating Artur Davis in Alabama's Dem gubernatorial primary.