Primaries yesterday in Missouri and Michigan have produced a couple of strong candidates who will face off against Senate incumbents in November.
In Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin bested two other candidates for the right to take on the Senate's most endangered Democrat; Claire McCaskill:
In a volatile and heated campaign, the GOP chose Akin to take on McCaskill over former state treasurer Sarah Steelman and wealthy businessman John Brunner.
Unlike in other recent key Republican Senate primaries, including races in Texas and Indiana, none of the three candidates were traditional establishment picks, and each had sought to lay claim to the mantle of small government outsider.
But in the final days of the race, they had sought to appeal to different splinters of the conservative electorate.
Akin received a late surge of support from evangelicals, impressed by his close ties to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and his long-standing support for conservative social causes.
Akin has a very good chance at unseating McCaskill who has run away from President Obama as far and as fast as she can. This hasn't done her much good, and Akin will have plenty of cash to tie the Senator firmly to Obama, who is very unpopular in the Show Me state.
Obama is more popular in Michigan and incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow has done pretty much the opposite of McCaskill. She has tied herself to the auto bailout that is very popular in the state, while keeping President Obama at arms length -- not embracing him but not going out of her way to mention him either. This poses a challenge for the winner of the GOP primary, former Congressman Peter Hoekstra:
The former congressman started out the race as the clear front-runner, well known statewide after an unsuccessful run for governor two years ago and with a strong political base in his old congressional district in Western Michigan, the most conservative part of the state.
Durant proved a strong fundraiser and rallied some Tea Partiers, who were unhappy with Hoekstra's support of the Wall Street bailout and some other issues, to his side, but he was never able to overcome Hoekstra's initial support.
A few of Hoekstra's missteps could haunt him in the general election. A campaign ad he ran featuring an Asian-American actress speaking in broken English was widely criticized as racist, and he was caught on tape questioning whether President Obama was born in the U.S.
Stabenow starts off as the heavy favorite in the general election. She holds a double-digit lead in recent polls and has a big cash advantage, with more than $4.5 million in the bank to $1 million for Hoekstra as of the last campaign report filing in mid-July.
Hoekstra has an uphill climb in this race, but it is not out of reach. But the RNC is not targeting Michigan and few super pacs will spend the money in a race where the GOP challenger is a long shot.