Tuesday's Primary Elections Had Few Surprises and That's OK

(Bloomberg) -- Four states went to the polls on Tuesday and the results were … something of a dud. That’s not bad news; better to have boring primary results than dysfunctional surprises. 

The Republicans easily turned back Don Blankenship in the West Virginia Senate primary after he ran as an irresponsible bigot. Democrats reportedly feared runner-up Evan Jenkins more than nominee Patrick Morrisey, but Blankenship finished a distant third with just 20 percent of the vote. 

I thought President Donald Trump’s last-minute tweet against Blankenship was risky, and while it probably didn’t move votes, the risk paid off for him this time. His reputation will be at least somewhat stronger as a result. Meanwhile, liberals who assumed that an outright bigot would automatically win a Republican primary should remember this result and readjust their expectations (although that depends to some extent on what the other two candidates campaigned on, so perhaps some research is in order). It’s a good result for the health of the party, whatever happens in November. 

Democrats, meanwhile, absolutely crushed Dennis Kucinich’s attempted comeback in Ohio. Not only did they nominate a reasonable candidate, Richard Cordray, but Kucinich was also held to just 23 percent of the vote. We’re now six states in, and if there’s any sign that Democrats are either plagued by a dysfunctional overreaction to Trump or are having real difficulties handling the surge in new candidates, I’m not really seeing it. 

That doesn’t mean that Democrats will always choose the strongest candidate or that there won’t be some duds that make it through primaries. No party can prevent that. And the current Democratic Party is certainly pretty liberal; Cordray is no moderate. But liberals didn’t try to defeat moderate Democrat Joe Manchin in West Virginia or any moderately liberal incumbents in Republican states, and the liberals they are nominating appear to be, for the most part, interested in governing responsibly. They’re not pledging to never compromise or to impeach every Republican in sight. 

So it was a dull election night, but that’s probably good news for both parties. Republicans can’t claim that they’ve solved their problems, but at least Mitch McConnell doesn’t have to set his “Days Since We Threw Away a Senate Election for No Good Reason” sign back to zero again. And the Democrats don’t seem to be catching the problems Republicans still haven’t solved. Sometime dull is just fine.

1. Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault at the Monkey Cage on torture and the nomination of Gina Haspel. 

2. Molly Reynolds on the rescission package

3. Lynn Vavreck at the Upshot on the upside of nominating moderate candidates

4. Greg Koger at Mischiefs of Faction continues his congressional-reform series with an item on time in the legislature.

5. Greg Sargent on what the Democrats are actually saying on the campaign trail this year and how the Trump scandals work for them.

6. See also David Weigel on what Nancy Pelosi is saying and what Democrats are campaigning on

7. Solid Nate Silver item on presidential approval volatility. Yup. I still believe that Trump is just as vulnerable (or able to capitalize) on events as earlier presidents have been; it’s just that we can’t be sure what kind of events, other than a recession, it would take to see large effects.

8. And Fred Kaplan on Trump and the Iran deal.

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To contact the author of this story: Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

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