Politics

Political roundup: The aftermath of Tuesday’s House and Senate races

This Tuesday, like most Tuesdays in an election year, saw a host of primaries. This week, TheDC’s political roundup gives you a look at a few of the more interesting ones: The special election to fill Rep. Gabby Giffords’ former seat, the Maine Senate race, and the Virginia Republican Senate primary.

1) Arizona special election

Democrats managed to hold onto the seat formerly occupied by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a special election on Tuesday, with Giffords’ former Chief of Staff Ron Barber beating out Republican Jesse Kelly.

Barber beat Kelly 52 to 46 percent — a larger margin than expected. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic polling firm that polled for Barber, noted in their congratulatory press release that this was an improved showing for Democrats in this seat than in 2010, when Giffords beat Kelly by a mere two percentage points, 49-47.

Democrats said this was a victory for Democratic ideology.

“Ron Barber’s strong campaign made this a referendum on the Republican plans to drastically cut Medicare and privatize Social Security, while giving massive tax breaks to millionaires, Big Oil and corporations that ship jobs overseas,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman (DCCC) Steve Israel said. “The Republican plan lost.”

The DCCC called it a “preview of the 2012 message battle between Democrats and Republicans,” in a memo on what the race means for November, and said that it showed Democrats to be strongly positioned heading into the general election.

Republicans, on the other hand, downplayed the significance, saying it had more to do with the memory of Giffords than either of the two candidates running.

“The race went largely according to form and the outcome was unremarkable,” said Jay Heiler, an Arizona Republican political consultant. “There is no favorable portent for Democrats in the result, except for the obvious reality that Gabby Giffords is justly admired and her support in this cycle means something to many voters.”

The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) had a similar take, portraying it as a wash and choosing to focus on the other primaries on Tuesday.

“What we know after last night: Democrats still hold Arizona 8, and Nancy Pelosi is no closer to the speaker’s chair than she was before the special election,” said Paul Lindsay, NRCC communications director, in a statement.

What it means for November remains to be seen.

Barber will likely hold the seat through 2014 because in November, candidates will be running for a newly apportioned district that looks more favorable for Democrats. That sets things up for a potential rematch, as Kelly has said he intends to run again in November. But Arizona Republicans may not be willing to make him the nominee again, cautioned Barry Aarons.

“Jesse Kelly failed twice in a better district, so the party faithful might be less inclined to want him to try again, especially in a less friendly district,” Aarons emailed. “Martha McSally finished a surprisingly strong second in the Republican primary in April. So surprising that the former fighter pilot — she was the first woman to actually fly fighter missions —might very well be considered the front-runner for the Republican nomination.”