GOP Faces Final Ballot Tests Before November

By Steve Peoples, CQ-Roll Call

Voters across the Northeast will head to the polls today in what amounts to the unofficial end to a wild primary season with the outcome of several ugly intraparty battles still very much in doubt.

Today’s primaries also give the national tea party movement its latest, and perhaps last, major opportunity to shape a local race that could help decide the balance of power in the new Congress. In Senate Republican primaries in Delaware and New Hampshire in particular, the establishment-backed candidates face aggressive challenges from tea party favorites.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has waded into both races, as has Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). Fresh from an unexpected success in Alaska, the Tea Party Express has been on the ground in Delaware for the past week fighting against the wishes of the state and national GOP.

Finally, not to be lost among today’s flurry of electoral action, embattled Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) must survive a primary challenge from the son of a political rival under the most challenging circumstances of his 30-year political career.

Delaware

Among the seven states hosting primaries today, none has drawn more attention from the tea party movement than the First State.

The Republican Senate primary pits conservative pundit Christine O’Donnell against longtime Rep. Michael N. Castle , who until recently was considered the heavy favorite in the November matchup against Democratic New Castle County Executive Chris Coons for the seat long held by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

But Castle might not get to face Coons.

With a boost from the tea party and national exposure to the race, O’Donnell is making life difficult for the more moderate Castle, who must survive a primary open only to registered Republicans.

Most Republicans believe O’Donnell is not a viable nominee because she would have little appeal to independents and Democrats in a general election.

Likewise, on the eve of today’s primary, National Democrats were nearly giddy at the prospect of an O’Donnell win and what it would mean for the overall playing field.

“The disarray in the Republican Senate primaries have given Democrats a competitive advantage in several key races,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee National Press Secretary Deirdre Murphy said. “There are seven Republican establishment candidates who were unable to advance beyond their primaries and that has made the map much more favorable for Democrats.”

To read more, visit: http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docid=news-000003731116&topic=Feature

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