May 5th, 2010
10:23 AM ET
11 years ago

Ugly primary wins for establishment candidates

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Former Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana is a step closer to winning back his old job."]
(CNN) - The establishment candidates came out on top in two of the three heavily contested Senate primary battles Tuesday. And while a win's a win, it wasn't so pretty.

Former Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana is a step closer to winning back his old job. Coats won his state's Republican primary battle for the Senate, beating four other candidates. Unofficial results indicate the former two-term senator won just under 40 percent of the vote, with state senator Marlin Stutzman placing second with 30 percent and former Rep. John Hostettler in third with 21 percent.

Stutzman's silver medal can be considered impressive, considering he was less well known statewide than Hostettler, who served 12 years in Congress. Stutzman was endorsed and helped by conservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and by local Tea Party groups.

"Marlin had the odds stacked against him," said DeMint in a statement released by his Senate Conservatives Fund political action committee. "This was his first statewide race and he was opposed by the Washington establishment. Yet he exceeded all expectations with an unwavering commitment to conservative principles. Marlin ran a strong campaign and has a bright future ahead of him."

The 66-year-old Coats, who retired from the Senate in early 1999, served as U.S. ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush, and has worked as a lobbyist.

In a possible taste of things to come, national Democrats criticized Coats' years as a lobbyist.

"Tonight, Indiana Republicans chose a deeply flawed candidate by selecting a Washington lobbyist as their nominee," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director Eric Schultz in a statement.

Coats now faces-off against Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth in the general election. The race is to fill the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, who is not running for re-election this year.

Bayh announced his retirement in mid-February, too late for any leading Democrat to organize the effort necessary to get on the primary ballot. Indiana Democratic party leaders unified around Ellsworth as their choice, a point National Republican Senatorial Campaign chairman Sen. John Cornyn highlighted in a statement Tuesday night.

"Unlike the Democrat party bosses who plan to hand-pick their nominee this month without an open primary election, Republicans in Indiana have participated in a spirited, open, and inclusive primary contest over the last several months," said Cornyn.

Coats landed several conservative endorsements, including those from lawmakers Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, former Indiana Rep. Chris Chocola, president of Club for Growth, an organization that preaches fiscal conservatism, and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. However, the big question for Republicans is whether the 60 percent of GOP primary voters who did not support Coats will now be inspired by his nomination.

"I think what happens on Wednesday in Indiana is more important than what happens on Tuesday," said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. "Republicans will need to unite behind a Coats candidacy in order to take back a Democratic-held Senate seat. Indiana is not a Democratic state, but Coats will need every Republican vote possible to win."

While DeMint praised Stutzman, he was clear he now supports Coats.

"This primary was competitive but now it's time for Republicans to unite behind Dan so he can defeat the Democrat in November," said DeMint, in his statement.

It's a mirror image in Ohio, where Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, considered to be the establishment candidate thanks to the nod of state and national Democrats, won his party's Senate nomination. Fisher topped Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner by 11 points. On the eve of the primary, a Quinnipiac University poll of likely Democratic primary voters indicated that Fisher held a 20-point leader over Brunner.

Fisher started the campaign as the slightly better-known candidate and raised more money than Brunner, but in the end the results were closer than the closing surveys suggested. Fisher, who spent a good amount of money fending off Brunner, now turns his attention to Republican Rob Portman. The former congressman who also served as the younger President Bush's White House budget director, had no real primary competition. The race in November is to succeed retiring Republican Sen. George Voinovich.

The jury is still out in North Carolina, the other competitive Senate primary battle held Tuesday. No Democratic candidate won the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, who was recruited by national Democrats, will face-off in a June 22 runoff. The winner will challenge Republican Sen. Richard Burr in November's general election.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn

Filed under: 2010 • Indiana • North Carolina • Ohio • Popular Posts
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    "We the People" can not take our Government back if we keep sending the same fake representatives back to congress.

    Vote Congress out, “you are fired” if they are in. Vote them out this fall no matter what party they belong to, and in the next election and every election going forward until they become the servants of the people once more.
    This November tell Congress "You Are Fired!"

    May 5, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  2. Bottom Line

    The tea Party and DeMint had no impact on the outcome of this race. Both are impotent. They've wasted time and money.

    May 5, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  3. What a joke

    The youth in this country seriously needs to get out there and start voting!!! Stop letting these old farts get into or back in office! Out with this old mess and in with some fresh and NEW and actual talent!

    May 5, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  4. Moby

    Brad Ellsworth is toast. Have a nice day. Don't let the door hit you on the way out chump...

    May 5, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    We don't need any lobbyists in the Senate. Especially someone whohas already been in it.

    May 5, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  6. GL

    The whole republicans party is a big joke. The continue to go backwork – right back to the GOOD OLD WHITE BOY NETWORK! This man is too only and white. The Republicans are just the same old party that continue to do the same old thing.

    May 5, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. Brenda

    And, based on recent poll results-–

    Coats is leading the Democrat Ellsworth by at "least" 14 points.

    Coats will win the seat.

    May 5, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  8. GL

    Marlin Stutzman placing second – In the Republicans party women will always come second to the GOOD OLD WHITE BOYS. Republicans have no room for diversilty – just want to keep their party as the GOOD OLD WHITE BOY PARTY. It would have been wise to selected a woman over this have been white man – but what to you exspect from the GOOD OLD WHITE BOY PARTY!

    May 5, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  9. GL

    The 66-year-old Coats, who retired from the Senate in early 1999, served as U.S. ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush, and has worked as a lobbyist.

    He is nothing but a career polication and the Republicans voters have to be one of the most stupid people in this country. Yea, they are – they voted Bush in twice and still think he did a great job.

    May 5, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  10. PalmReader

    Stutzman's silver medal can be considered impressive, considering he was less well known statewide than Hostettler

    And the gold medal goes to CNN for *above and beyond* biased reporting . . .

    Impressive was voter turnout. Low even by mid-term primary standards. So much for referendums, taking back America empty rhetoric, and angry T-Pers all fired up – ready to vote.

    May 5, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  11. scott

    all three of these races are tossups n november!

    May 5, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  12. dlforlife

    "This was his first statewide race and he was opposed by the Washington establishment." Says Jim DeMint.

    This is so hilarious. Party establishment guy endorses candidate as non-party establishment. Laughable:

    May 5, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  13. j

    Just shows how schizophrenic voters really are. They say they want change and then they vote in the same people. How does that change anything?

    May 5, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  14. Gary a proud Canadian

    Lets do the math cnn, he won less than 40% of the repubs vote, that means over 60% of repubs do not want him as their senator and you state he is almost there.No wonder you are falling in ratings so fast.Quit trying to make the news and try just reporting the facts, i believe your ratings will go up.

    May 5, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  15. mel

    Its obvious the media donot want the Democrats to bring up immigration,because it hurts the Gop bigtime,the media keep telling Democrats immigration is going to hurt you guys in November,but the truth is immigration is going to destroy the Gop,how can the Gop win back the House or Senate when 82% of latinos is now supporting the Democrats,how can the Gop win anything with those kind of numbers.Lastweek the Gop was scared to death,u didnot see one Gop leader come out in public to discuss the immigration law in ARZ,what is wrong with the Democrats can they see this,can they see how much the Gop is scared of talking immigration,the media dont want the Democrats to even bring up immigration because the media knows the Gop wont win anything in November,in that wont make for good news.

    May 5, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  16. Bob in PA

    establishment !?

    Are you stuck in the 60's Mr. Steinhauser ?

    May 5, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  17. Anonymous

    So much for Republican voters saying they want to change Washington. Voting in old Republicans sure isn't in that directions.

    I think they are going to vote Bush back too.

    May 5, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  18. If We Can Defeat Him On Healthcare, It Will Be His Waterloo

    Does Indiana really want to hand the car keys back to one of the drunk
    GOPers who nearly wrecked our economy?

    Dan Coats: Meet the old boss, same as the old boss.

    May 5, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |