TIME 2014 Election

The 5 Takeaways from Tuesday’s Primaries

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, left, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts greet each other at Johnson County Republican's election watch party Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, left, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts greet each other at Johnson County Republican's election watch party, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan. Charlie Riedel—AP

The fight for the soul of the Republican Party rages on

Most of the results in the primaries in Michigan, Kansas, Missouri and Washington on Tuesday were predictable. But Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s surprise exit in June has primed most political watchers to look for unexpected results as the fight for the soul of the Republican Party rages on. This week’s results proved a mixed bag, with one incumbent going down but others surviving. From a Santa impersonator to Barack Obama’s cousin, here are the most interesting results from Tuesday’s primaries:
 
Sen. Pat Roberts survived. Three-term Kansas incumbent Roberts beat off Tea Party challenger Milton Wolf, a radiologist whose claim to fame is that he is President Obama’s cousin once removed. Roberts overcame questions about residency—whether he even maintained a home in Kansas—that brought down his colleague Dick Lugar in Indiana last cycle. But Milton faltered over the revelation of Facebook posts in which he apparently mocked patient X-rays. Roberts, who outraised Milton by $4.7 million to $1.1 million, was always ahead in the polls. A loss here would’ve been a huge upset.

Rep. Justin Amash survived. In a year when establishment Republicans like Roberts have generally prevailed against Tea Party challengers, they have less successfully gone on the offensive against Tea Party incumbent troublemakers like Amash. Despite being outspent and in the crosshairs of the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove, the two-term Michigan Republican prevailed Tuesday night. Amash so angered House leadership with his antics, they stripped him of his Budget Committee membership in 2012. Apparently, being unpopular in the most unpopular institution in America is a winner with voters.

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio didn’t survive. If Amash hadn’t played his cards right, he could’ve easily have ended up like fellow Michigan upstart Bentivolio. The reindeer rancher and Santa impersonator was an accidental congressman. He happened to be the only one left on the ballot in 2012 when Rep. Thaddeus McCotter failed to properly qualify for the GOP ballot. Bentivolio didn’t toe the party line and failed to properly fundraise, leaving himself vulnerable to a challenge. Businessman David Trott won the backing of the Chamber of Commerce and self-funded $2.5 million to prevail Tuesday night.

Rep. Mike Pompeo survived. The perception of being an old school, ear marking Republican hurt former Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s bid to take back his former seat from Pompeo. Tiahrt, who represented Kansas’s fourth district from 1997 to 2011, left office to make an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2010. At the last minute before the May filing deadline, Tiahrt challenged his successor to win the seat back. Pompeo, though, had the backing of the Koch brothers and the anti-tax group the Club for Growth, who ran ads mocked Tiahrt’s “earmark of the day.” Pompeo won easily.

Two Republicans advanced from a crowded Washington primary. Doc Hastings,10-term incumbent and chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, is one of nearly three dozen House incumbents beating an path to the exit, disgusted with Congress’s newly intractable ways. But that didn’t stop a dozen people from running for the chance to succeed him. Washington has a top-two advance system regardless of party affiliation but in the reliably Republican 4th district, two Republicans topped the polls: Clint Didier, a former NFL star who won two Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins and ran as a Tea Partier and Dan Newhouse, a former state legislator and agricultural director. Which means, voters in that district will have until November to decide their own Tea Party versus establishment battle.

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