It’s unfortunate that Burns wrote his piece before the Alaska count. There, as he writes, “Sen. Lisa Murkowski was expected to dispatch attorney Joe Miller.” That’s the Murkowski who “even after election after election this year has dispatched experienced legislators to other forms of employment… fully embraced her status as a politician capable of delivering federal support for her remote, sparsely populated state…” I guess her likely loss is another “exception” to whatever rule it is we’re following now.
At the Post, Dan Balz does a bit of backtracking on his Monday story, “Establishment candidates in Arizona, Florida rally against ‘outsider’ rivals.” In that story, Balz tapped out some (then) conventional wisdom:
In that state’s Republican gubernatorial primary, another wealthy businessman, Rick Scott, poured tens of millions of his money into his race against state Attorney General Bill McCollum. But after leading in the polls, Scott trails his rival.
The contests offer more evidence that establishment candidates can prosper in this year of the outsider. They are also a reminder that personal wealth cannot overcome personal flaws, particularly among political novices.
Today came Balz’s more cautious rewrite, “Primaries test establishment vs. outsiders in Florida, Arizona and Alaska.”
In Florida, voters delivered a mixed verdict on the outsider versus establishment question. In the Democratic Senate primary, Rep. Kendrick Meek easily defeated billionaire businessman and political novice Jeff Greene.
…In a year described alternately as anti-incumbent and anti-Washington, political outsiders have triumphed in many places, capturing GOP primaries in Utah, Kentucky, Nevada, Colorado and Connecticut, among others. “Tea party” activists played a crucial role in many of those states.
Overall, Balz’s piece is formidable, one of the best-informed and most thorough takes on the results. But what’s most “surprisingly” “shockingly” interesting about the story is the internal struggle it seems to be having over just how to call Tuesday’s results. One for the incumbents, or one for the antis? At times it reads as if Balz is having a conversation with himself, mulling over some invisible pros-and-cons list:
But some embattled incumbents have survived unexpectedly strong challenges, as was the case two weeks ago in Colorado, where appointed Sen. Michael Bennet beat back a challenge from former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff. McCain’s easy victory and Meek’s comeback in Florida continued that pattern Tuesday.
Still, there is little to suggest that voter disaffection with Washington is dissipating or that Republican energy and enthusiasm are weakening. With President Obama in the White House and Democrats holding both the House and Senate, Democratic incumbents are expected to feel the brunt of that anger.
McClatchy’s comprehensive take is in tune with the rest, though the writers certainly push down hard on the “big drama” pedal.
…Scott’s victory is a shock to the state’s political system, and threatens to tear apart the fabric of the Republican Party already reeling from the indictment of former party chairman Jim Greer and defection of a once-immensely popular governor, Charlie Crist.
But for my money the best piece on the primaries story goes to Jay Newton Small at Time’s Swampland blog. It’s all in the lede.
Tuesday night’s primaries reminded us that nothing this election season is as we expect it.
If yesterday’s ungainly and untamable results reveal anything on a broader national scale, it might just be this: beware of narratives—they’re often just fiction.