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« NRCC Has Outraised DCCC By $1M In 2010 | Blog Home Page | SC: Haley Wins Runoff »

Three Races To Watch Today

By Kyle Trygstad

There are three major statewide races on the docket today, one governor's race and two to decide nominations for the Senate. With the upcoming Fourth of July holiday and Congress pushing to finish up business for the August recess, this is the last big day of elections for the next six weeks. Here's a look at the three biggest races of the day:

Utah - Republican Senate Primary

Businessman Tim Bridgewater nearly came out of the early May state party convention with the GOP nomination but fell 3 points shy of the 60 percent needed to avoid a primary. Since then, he's tried to prove his resume as a true conservative, while also collecting some establishment-type endorsements -- with none bigger than Sen. Bob Bennett, whom he defeated at the convention.

Meanwhile, attorney Mike Lee built up some momentum of his own and has collected endorsements from such conservatives as South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, as well as the Tea Party Express.

The two have furiously fought for the last six weeks to distinguish themselves, as they take similar stances on the top issues and entered the race from outside of elected office. One hot topic the Deseret News calls a "sleeper issue" is that of the importation of nuclear waste for disposal, something Lee supports and Bridgewater wants to ban.

A poll released over the weekend found Bridgewater ahead by 9 points with 43 percent of the vote. However, a quarter of voters remain undecided and the nomination is up for grabs.

North Carolina - Democratic Senate Primary Runoff

In a year when electability hasn't always been the deciding factor in primaries, it's the top argument of the two Democrats vying for the chance to take on first-term Republican Sen. Richard Burr. No one has been re-elected to this seat since 1968, and both Cal Cunningham and Elaine Marshall say they are the only one who can keep that streak alive.

Marshall, a four-term secretary of state, and Cal Cunningham, a former one-term state senator and veteran recruited by the national party, sought the outsider mantle to go along with being most electable. They also jockeyed for the endorsement of primary opponent Ken Lewis. The African-American Chapel Hill attorney, who took 17 percent of the primary vote, ultimately endorsed Marshall, whose campaign has focused on getting out the black vote and believes that voting bloc is the game-changer.

Cunningham has pushed the argument that Marshall is a career politician -- an unattractive resume in this political climate. Extending the electability argument, the campaign released a late endorsement Sunday from former presidential candidate Wesley Clark, who was quoted saying Cunningham "is without a doubt the best Democrat to beat Richard Burr this November."

Polling has been sparse, as it can be difficult to estimate turnout in a runoff. The last public poll was released more than a month ago and found the race tied at 36 percent apiece. Like Utah, that leaves a quarter of voters undecided.

South Carolina - Republican Gubernatorial Primary Runoff

South Carolina, a southern state that's never had a woman governor, is witnessing the dramatic political rise of a female, Indian American state representative. Nikki Haley's surge onto the statewide political scene came against three white men with far more political experience. But before taking Columbia, or even the Republican nomination, Haley must first defeat Rep. Gresham Barrett in today's runoff.

Haley nearly won the nomination in the June 8 primary, finishing just a half-point shy of 50 percent. Barrett finished second, far behind with less than 22 percent. Also running was two-term Attorney General Henry McMaster (17 percent) and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (12 percent). Haley has the support of Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, whose endorsement and inclusion of Haley among her "Mama Grizzlies" instantly increased Haley's profile in the primary -- but she still had to get through the infamous nature of South Carolina politics.

Haley's waded through a handful of adultery accusations and questions about her Christian faith, but the smears are not expected to affect today's result. Bauer quickly endorsed Barrett, but not McMaster, who recently told the Washington Post: "The [primary] results were remarkable. There's a new day dawning for South Carolina. We have an opportunity to be an example for the rest of the country."