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In Today’s Primaries, GOP Hopes Tea Party Won’t Kill Its Chances

Voting results are expected to be especially interesting tonight for the Republican Party, which has traditional members facing off against Tea Party upstarts in states such as Georgia, Kentucky , Idaho and Pennsylvania. The contests are putting mainline Republicans on edge as they try to avoid a repeat of past election-day scenarios that saw Tea Party primary wins allow Democrats to win the big prize in November.

Two big contests on everyone’s radar are the Senate primary races in Georgia and Kentucky. GOP insiders are especially nervous about Kentucky, where the fear is that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell might actually go down in flames and lose to Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin. But that now appears increasingly unlikely. The McConnell campaign squarely took on Bevin and were able to damage him when video emerged of Bevin appearing at a professional cockfighting event in March—and even giving a speech in favor of legalizing cockfighting.

In Georgia, the fear among mainstream Republicans is that arch-conservatives Reps. Paul Broun or Phil Gingrey would win the primary, clearing the way for Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of the legendary Sen. Sam Nunn, to topple the Tea Party in November and turn a red state blue for the Democrats. But a Tea Party win is looking less likely, as candidates David Perdue and Jack Kingston have battled to show off their conservative bona fides, making the Tea Party less attractive to Republican voters.

Some analysts also surmise that the Tea Party base just isn’t as fired up as it was a year ago because the federal deficit has actually been decreasing, taking a major Tea Party issue off the table.

With the crowded Republican primary in Georgia expected to result in a runoff, Nunn will be able to stand aside and watch the Republicans slug at each other and possibly land damaging blows that will have one of them staggering into a November race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss. 

Nunn could possibly face a woman candidate in former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who is hoping to neutralize a possible Nunn advantage among female voters.

“You can’t put a ‘war on women’ on me,” Handel said to reporters yesterday. “I’m the one conservative in this race — who happens to be a she.”

Veteran Republican Reps. Mike Simpson of Idaho, who is seeking a ninth term, and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, running for a seventh full term, are also trying to stave off challenges from the Tea Party.

In Pennsylvania, the race of interest features the mother-in-law of Chelsea Clinton, Marjorie Margolies. Margolies is trying to return to Congress after losing her House seat 20 years ago when she provided a decisive vote for Bill Clinton’s budget.

Margolies, locked in a four-way Democratic primary in the Philadelphia suburbs for the seat of Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., who is running for governor, brought in her son’s father-in-law, former President Clinton, to record her final TV commercial. Clinton told voters the ex-congresswoman “saved the economy” with her 1993 budget vote.

The Republicans are so cocky about how they will fare when the dust clears that the National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., is reportedly about to tell his colleagues that Republicans can win up to 245 House seats this year, which would be a net gain of 12 seats. It would be the highest number of seats the GOP has held since 1947-1948.

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