Politics Counts: McConnell’s Rand Paul-Style Win
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao arrive for a victory celebration following the early results of the state Republican primary May 20, 2014 in Louisville, Ky.
Dante Chinni writes Politics Counts as a regular Capital Journal feature. Mr. Chinni is the director of the American Communities Project at American University, which examines different types of communities across the U.S.
Coming out of Tuesday’s primaries, the Republican Party’s establishment is feeling better about its chances of retaking the Senate in the fall. As the Wall Street Journal posted soon after the results were in, the GOP’s establishmentarians won in Kentucky and Georgia.
Going deeper into the numbers, a few things jump out of those primary tallies – and they are mostly good for the Republican Party’s establishment and for the party in general for November.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s win Tuesday night looked a lot Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s primary win in 2010 – Mr. McConnell captured 60% of the vote, while Mr. Paul won 59%.
And while some may see concern for the GOP in the number of people who turned out – 355,000 for Republicans versus 402,000 for Democrats – the numbers are actually better for Republicans than they were in 2010. Then 352,000 votes were cast in the Republican primary versus 521,000 for the Democratic primary, and, of course, Mr. Paul, the Republican, won going away in the fall.
There was also good news for Mr. McConnell in the shape of his win, which seems to show what his campaign contributions showed. He did well in counties with large numbers of evangelical adherents. He captured 60% of the vote out of counties labeled as Evangelical Hubs in American University’s American Community Project. Those counties are in purple on the map below.
That matched what Mr. McConnell captured statewide and it beat the 55% that Mr. Paul pulled out of those counties in his primary in 2010.
And Mr. McConnell’s win was remarkably flat in terms of winning population centers. He won the six big counties where the population is greater than 100,000 people with 60% of the vote. He also won the rest of the state with 60% of the vote. That strength in rural places in particular could be important this fall, as we noted earlier this week.
In the five-candidate race to succeed Sen. Saxby Chambliss in Georgia, the two mainstream, establishment candidates – businessman David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston – took the top two slots and will compete in a runoff in July. It’s widely believed that either of those two candidates would be the most likely to defeat Democrat Michelle Nunn in the fall.
But the numbers looked different in metro Atlanta, where former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel finished a close second suggesting she could play a role going forward in the campaign. Ms. Handel has deep roots in the area and won Fulton, Gwinnett and Forsyth counties.
Ms. Handel was backed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and was very critical of Mr. Perdue during the campaign. Considering her success in metro Atlanta, Ms. Handel could play a role in the July runoff by pushing her supporters toward either Mr. Perdue or Mr. Kingston.
As we noted earlier this week, metro Atlanta is an important area for the GOP and really for anyone seeking statewide office in Georgia – and right now Ms. Handel seems to have a good-sized base of support there and perhaps a good political hand to play.
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