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Appointed Sen. Michael Bennet won the Democratic nomination to a full term in Colorado Tuesday night, overcoming a fierce primary challenge at home and an outbreak of anti-establishment fever nationwide. In Connecticut, Linda McMahon easily won the Republican Senate primary to join the growing slate of outsider-candidates who will carry the GOP banner this fall.
The race between former Rep. Nathan Deal and ex-Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel was too close to call in the Republican gubernatorial runoff in Georgia. The two vied for the right to take on former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes in November.
In deference to the national mood, both GOP contenders resigned from public office to run, Handel stepping down from her state position and Deal resigning his seat in Congress.
Subplots included presidential hopefuls bestowing endorsements in hopes of helping themselves in the 2012 race for the White House.
Nowhere was that more evident than in Georgia, where former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Handel in her bid to become the state's first female governor.
Deal countered with support from Georgian Newt Gingrich, once the speaker of the House and now a possible presidential contender.
Deal is a former Democrat whose party switch 15 years ago reinforced the Gingrich-led GOP majority after the 1994 congressional elections. Deal also had the support of Mike Huckabee, who won the Georgia presidential primary in 2008.
Barnes won the Democratic nomination outright in a primary on July 20, while Handel led Deal in a Republican primary in which neither got 50 percent, necessitating the runoff.
McMahon, who has vowed to spend as much as $50 million in personal funds in her campaign, will be the underdog in the fall in a race with Democratic Attorney General Blumenthal to replace retiring Sen. Chris Dodd, also a Democrat. The two rivals could not be less alike — he the longtime statewide office holder and she the political neophyte whose rise is part of a nationwide political trend that favors outsiders. Among her primary victims was former Rep. Rob Simmons, who began the primary campaign as the favorite and fell so far behind that he suspended his candidacy earlier in the year.
Simmons rejoined the race in recent weeks as attacks focused on the sometimes raunchy scenes that are part of WWE's appeal, but McMahon was gaining nearly 49 percent of the vote in a three-way race, with returns counted from nearly 60 percent of the state's precincts.
With Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell retiring, Connecticut voters also settled a pair of contested gubernatorial primaries.
Tom Foley, a businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, won a three-way race for the Republican nomination. He will face former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy in November.
Among the Democrats, Malloy defeated Ned Lamont, a businessman making his second try for statewide office. Lamont won a Senate primary four years ago, upsetting Sen. Joe Lieberman, who then won a new term in the fall as an independent.
In the marquee race of the night, Bennet fended off a primary challenge from Andrew Romanoff in Colorado. Bennet was the latest in a string of incumbents to face serious challenges from within their own parties. So far this year, two senators and four House members have fallen.
Bennet was appointed to his seat nearly two years ago when Ken Salazar resigned to become Interior secretary in the Obama administration.
Romanoff, a former speaker of the state House, had hoped for the appointment, and he spurned entreaties from senior party officials to skip the race with Bennet.
In an intense campaign, both men sought the mantle of political outsider. Yet each relied on very well-known establishment politicians to help them — President Obama in Bennet's case and former President Clinton in Romanoff's.
The Republican primary was equally intense, with Tea Party favorite Ken Buck defeating former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton to clinch Colorado's Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
They, too, sparred over ownership of the outsider's credentials. Both also have ties to Tea Party activists, though Buck expressed frustration at one point, asking aloud for someone to tell those "dumba—-s" to stop asking him about Obama's birth certificate while he was being recorded. He later expressed regret for the remarks.
In the state's gubernatorial campaign, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was unchallenged for the Democratic nomination.
Republican Dan Maes, a businessman, edged out former Rep. Scott McInnis after a campaign in which each suffered self-inflicted wounds.
McInnis has acknowledged receiving $300,000 as part of a foundation fellowship for a water study report that was partly plagiarized. Maes has paid $17,500 for violating campaign finance laws.
The spectacle prompted former Rep. Tom Tancredo to jump into the race as an independent, which in turn led state party chairman Dick Wadhams to say it would be difficult if not impossible to defeat the Democrat this fall.
Conservative State Rep. Tom Emmer easily won the Republican nomination for governor. Minnesotans have not elected a Democratic governor in nearly a quarter-century, and former Sen. Mark Dayton won a close primary for the right to try to end the slide.
This program aired on August 11, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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