What's at Stake in This Week's Primaries
Blogging the Beltway: A moderate gets the boot, and North Carolina votes against same-sex marriage.
UPDATE 5/9/2012: The results are in, with the races going largely as expected on Tuesday night. Follow updates below.
Tuesday's primary races may be inconsequential where the presidential candidates are concerned, with Mitt Romney expected to easily trounce Ron Paul in North Carolina, Indiana and West Virginia. But will results in some of the local contests have implications for the presidential race in November?
UPDATE 5/9/2012: Sen. Richard Lugar, seen by his colleagues as a moderate who knew the value of compromise, got the boot. Indiana Republican primary voters instead went with state treasurer Richard Mourdock, who opposes the very concept of bipartisanship and was largely favored by Tea Party groups. Mourdock is now facing Democrat Joe Donnelly, who might have a reasonable shot, for a U.S. Senate seat.
Based on recent polling that shows him trailing challenger Richard Mourdock, six-term Republican Sen. Richard Lugar is expected to see the end of his political career on Tuesday. Lugar has particularly fallen out of favor with Tea Party voters, who see the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as too moderate.
"I find it hysterical that the Tea Party sees Dick Lugar as not sufficiently conservative," Michael Fauntroy, professor of public policy at George Mason University, told The Root. "He's not as reactionary as some conservatives are, but he's not a liberal."
But with recent polls showing that support for the Tea Party is on the wane after its midterm election surge in 2010, why does it matter so much in Indiana? "I see the Tea Party as regional, not necessarily a national movement," Fauntroy offered. "If you look around the country at where the Tea Party is still as strong as they were two years ago, Indiana is one of those places."
UPDATE 5/9/2012: North Carolina voted overwhelmingly in favor of Amendment One, which bans same-sex marriage and civil unions (same-sex and straight) in the state’s constitution. Given North Carolina’s status as a prized swing state, and the host of September’s Democratic National Committee, don’t count on President Obama to join Vice President Biden in expressing support for gay marriage any time soon. (At least not until after November.)
In this critical swing state, the Amendment One ballot measure -- which would amend North Carolina's constitution to say that "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State" -- has brought out both the state's evangelical and liberal voters.
But it's doubtful whether the likely passage of the amendment will mean anything for the state of the presidential race. While most Republican voters are planning to vote for the amendment, as are a majority of African Americans in the state, that alliance will dissipate in November when most black voters go for President Obama.
"But Obama won North Carolina with 13,000 votes in 2008, so it's going to be uphill anyway," said Fauntroy.
While West Virginia has no major contests on Tuesday, could the Democratic incumbents that will advance to the general election -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Sen. Joe Manchin -- have any bearing on how the state goes in the presidential race?
"If the Democratic incumbents are able to win, that could potentially drive West Virginia closer to President Obama in November," offered Fauntroy. On the other hand, West Virginia is not particularly Obama-friendly -- John McCain won the state by a 13 percent margin in 2008's general election -- so his chances there are slim.
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's senior political correspondent.