Who's winning in the election battle?
Obviously, the primaries aren't over; they have a while to go. Some numbnut states don't even hold them until September (I'm looking at you, Noo Yawk) which gives a precious two months or so to campaign for the fall election. Barbarians.
So far, the big races have pretty much been decided; the Arizona Senate primary is about the only one left to grab any headlines, though a few races here and there might pop up (such as Hawaii's odd situation with a House race, where two Democrats refused to back down and split the vote, electing a Republican until the fall election). Some of the runoff elections might also prove to be interesting, such as Nikki Haley in South Carolina.
But as time goes on, pundits are looking at races that were only mildly interesting in the past and now are infused with greater importance. This is due to (mostly) one factor, and that's the Tea Party.
The Tea Party movement has been pretty much running their own candidates against the established Republicans, making most of the GOP fighting with themselves instead of their presumptive opponents. Granted, it's not like primaries have never been fought in the past. But the Tea Party is so well organized and funded, it's almost like a third party challenging nearly every race of importance. I've blogged about the Tea Party in the past. The only thing that's different now is the impact they will have on these later primaries. If the Tea Party's influence wanes, then these latecomers might be safe. But if their numbers swell, more and more upsets will occur on the Republican side.
The Democrats have been largely immune to this infighting, but not completely. Still, right now, I would say that the benefits of people's anger towards the Obama administration is offset by the amount of effort, money, and time the Republicans have to spent to fend off the challenges from the far right.
So, to restate the question: Who has won and who has lost so far?
Sarah Palin: Winner. Sure, she's not liked by too many people, but her hit percentage is pretty high when picking candidates to endorse. Right now, she's golden. I, personally, think this will pretty much immediately disappear once the election is over, but in the meantime she is definitely a power broker within the conservative movement; she's no longer the shallow window dressing many people were writing her off as, for good or bad.
Incumbents: Undetermined. Two weeks ago, reporters were looking at every single elected official of both parties and imagining their obituaries. Not really anymore; the primaries yesterday were fairly kind to the incumbents (excepting Nevada's embattled governor Jim gibbons who is currently undergoing some scandal and divorce issues, which, despite what you may thing, is not a net positive in that state). So, just because you are an incumbent doesn't mean your safe; it doesn't mean you have a target on your back, either.
Unions: Losers. The unions bet a lot of chips on Bill Halter, a challenger to sitting Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln. Unfortunately for them, he lost. Lincoln has always been a quite centrist Democrat--Arkansas is still pretty red, Bill Clinton be damned--and this was a particularly bitter battle that in many ways was the old Left versus centrist Democrat, with the former being a decidedly union creation. In addition, the unions could have easily capitalized (both politically and organizationally) on the recession, selling their organization as a safety net during hard times; however, tales of public service employees in California raking in 100 grand pensions, teachers blatantly grabbing money in some of the big city markets, and the UAW's rather shameless desire to not take any blame for the near-bankruptcy of GM or Chrysler have made people less sympathetic, I think.
The Tea Party: Undetermined. I suspect one of two things will happen: One is that once the smoke clears and moderate and independent voters look around, they may run scared from the hard right candidates. (They will probably stay home rather than vote Democrat, which introduces a different set of scenarios.) Or, Two: the far right candidates will realize they are in trouble, tack to the center, piss off their supporters, and find themselves without any support at all. Neither of these situations bodes well for any of these candidates. I can't immediately envision a case where the Tea Party candidates actually sell themselves to the public at large, as opposed to just conservatives and registered Republicans, unless Obama completely wipes out. The only good thing to say about the Tea Party movement from a political standpoint is that they haven't been running third party candidates when they lose, a temptation lost on a generation of Greens and Libertarians.
Rich Silicon Valley Women: Winners. At least for now. Meg Whitman might actually have a shot at winning the governorship of California, depending on whether California voters blame the GOP or public sector employees or the energy companies or whomever for their current fiscal disaster. Carly Fiorina is a complete disaster of a candidate. Sure, I think she would make a decent senator, and I think the tales of her incompetence as CEO of HP are more excuses than reality, but in today's political culture, evidence doesn't matter; it's only the appearance of evidence that matters. Hell, I could write an Anti-Fiorina ad in about six minutes.
I am certain that new winners and losers may crop up between now and November--For example, I am waiting to see if the Club for Growth develops into its own entity or if it's just going to be the cranky older brother of the Tea Party--so we shall see.