Two big stories that got mostly cut out of the coverage last night: The victory of Rep. Walter Jones in North Carolina and the narrow victory of Rep. Dan Burton in Indiana, both Republicans. Jones, who joins John Duncan and Ron Paul as one of the only anti-war, anti-surge Republicans in Congress, dispatched pro-war former Army officher Joe McLaughlin by 19 points, carrying 14 of 17 counties. Harbor no illusions that he did it because voters turned against the war. Jones simply finessed the issue, talking about health care and benefits for soldiers the way that Ron Paul does when he's hit on this.
"I think more and more Republicans are starting to understand after five years that the Iraqis need to step up and take responsibility," Jones said.
Jones retained some strong military support in his district, particularly among retired Marines and other veterans.
"We are close to the veterans and they knew it," Jones said.
Burton, meanwhile won by only 7 points (52 percent of the vote in a multiple-candidate race) over an emergency room doctor who hammered him on corruption.
Dr. John McGoff, who hammered Burton on ethics, thought he had a good shot to dethrone Burton, who has been in office since 1982 and routinely wins elections with about 70 percent of the vote.
McGoff's campaign had criticized Burton for missing votes in order to play golf and for spending $200,000 in taxpayer funds to send mailers to constituents during the heat of the campaign.
Burton—who has been unbeatable and, apparently, unfazed about negative media coverage in the past—may have received an assist from Republicans choosing to vote Democrat today.
I think it was a combination of that and Burton belatedly engaging in the race. If Burton had fallen asleep at the wheel and the GOP had a competitive presidential race yesterday, McGoff would be heading to Congress.
The third underreported story: John McCain's dramatic underperformance in his uncontested, beauty contest primaries. Even as activist, talk radio-listening Republicans (who don't like McCain) bolted into the Democratic race, McCain won only 78 percent of the vote in Indiana and 74 percent in North Carolina. That's compared to George W. Bush's 81 percent and 79 percent in 2000, at the same time in the primaries, when he also had it locked up. McCain plunged as low as 67 percent in Indiana's Whitley county and 57 percent in North Carolina's western Madison County. (The famous Madison County is actually in Iowa.)
Ron Paul came in third in both states, but his campaign crowed about hitting a "milestone."
"The big picture is that now onemillion Republicans have voted or caucused for Ron in this primary," said Paul's spokesman Jesse Benton. "Once people come and get behind Ron, they're not soft supporters. They're committed. I think it sends the message that people want limited government."
I've chattered about "Operation Chaos" (the Limbaugh voters-for-Clinton plan) plenty, but after last night I realized exactly how bad it is for the GOP. The party's hardest hard-cores can't stand their nominee. They're driving to the polls to vote for Hillary Clinton in part because it's more fun than casting a McCain ballot. It's more fun to vote for Hillary Clinton. How the hell do you motivate them to turn out, phone bank, donate to their ticket in the fall?