What To Watch For: Today's Primaries

Voters in three states will select nominees today for governor, the U.S. Senate and key House races. Although much of the political stories in Colorado, Connecticut, and Georgia are based on local politics and personalities, there are nonetheless developments that bear watching on the national scene.

Is Colorado the New South Carolina?
In recent weeks, the controversies that have flared up in Colorado seemed to rival those that in South Carolina that made national headlines earlier this year.

The defeat of appointed Sen. Michael Bennet may be the second nose-thumbing of President Obama by fellow Democrats over a senator he has endorsed and campaigned for (the first was Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, beaten for renomination in May by Rep. Joe Sestak). Polls in the twilight days give the lead and momentum to former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who has benefited from campaign stops by Bill Clinton.

Both Bennet and Romanoff are arch-liberals who agree on nearly every issue. The difference is that Bennet, a former Denver school superintendent who has never held elective office, was a surprise “Mike Who?” when appointed to replace Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar last year. Romanoff is a seasoned politician who had been aiming at a statewide race and was clearly disappointed when he didn’t get the appointment.

The Republican momentum is with Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, favorite of the conservative grass-roots, over the more moderate former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who has had campaign assistance from John McCain. Buck’s cracks that a key difference between himself and Norton was that he did not wear “high heels.” His not-so-nice language to describe right-wingers who question President Obama’s place of birth does not seem to have hurt him among likely GOP voters.

In the bizarre GOP gubernatorial primary, small businessman and conservative stalwart Dan Maes came out of nowhere to pressure long-presumed favorite Scott McInnis. This is largely due to former Rep. McInnis’s admission that he plagiarized essays on water rights and would return $300,000 that he was paid to write the essays by a Colorado-based foundation.

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo insists he will stay in the race as the American Constitution Party candidate regardless of whether the GOP nominee is Maes or McInnis. No one wonders why the certain Democratic nominee, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, is smiling a lot these days.

Millionaires Row in Connecticut
In a state that historically has rejected wealthy candidates who use their own money, signs are strong that the rich will “go to the bank” in races tonight.

Wrestling company executive Linda McMahon, who has spent the most of any U.S. Senate candidate this year ($30 million, almost all of it her own), is likely to defeat former three-term Rep. Rob Simmons for the Republican Senate nomination. Both are considered social moderates and fiscal conservatives. The third contender in the race is venture capitalist and Ron Paul enthusiast Peter Schiff.

With five-term Sen. Christoper Dodd retiring, the Democratic nominee and favorite for the fall is longtime state Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal.

Among Republicans, millionaire businessman and former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley won the blessings of the state GOP convention to succeed retiring GOP Gov. Jodi Rell. However, he is facing an unusually competitive primary against fellow moderate Lt. Gov. Mike Fidele.

Among Democrats, cable television magnate and ’06 U.S. Senate nominee Ned Lamont will probably eke out a win over former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy. Pundits are speculating over what candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman, who won re-election as an Independent after losing the ’06 primary to Lamont, will do if his old nemesis is the nominee for governor.

Georgia: The Final Chapter
With Gov. Sonny Perdue termed out, Peach State Republicans are likely to nominate Secretary of State Karen Handel in tonight’s runoff. Backed by Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, Hanley is favored over the primary runner-up, Newt Gingrich-favorite former Rep. Nathan Deal.

The Democratic contender is former Gov. Roy Barnes, who was unseated by Perdue in ’02.

In the only GOP House run-off, Rep. Tom Graves (who won the special election to succeed Deal earlier this year) should win his third and final political shoot-out over former state legislator Lee Hawkins, who was backed by Rep. John Linder and other “establishment” GOPers.