Two candidates who were viewed as the choice of establishment Washington scored narrow victories in tough primaries Tuesday night. One candidate with ties to Washington, but an outsider aura and the backing of the tea party, won in Colorado. And in Connecticut, a former wrestling executive won a smackdown victory.
2010 Election Maps: Follow the Senate, House and Governors' Races
Palin's last-minute campaign trip to Georgia Monday to lift one of her "mama grizzlies," former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel, seemed unsuccessful, at least as of the late evening Tuesday. Handel trailed former Rep. Nathan Deal with more than 90 percent of the ballots counted in the race for Georgia's Republican gubernatorial nomination. But the difference between the two was about one percent.
Handel is entitled to a recount under state law if the final difference between the two is one percent or less.
Speaking to supporters just before 11 p.m., Handel noted "a lot of absentee ballots" remain outstanding. She urged the crowd to keep their fingers crossed, "keep the faith, be optimistic and party on!"
Deal had the backing of the NRA and some other potential 2012 presidential candidates in Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, both of whom campaigned for him.
In Colorado, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet was a more decisive victor in the primary for his seat. Bennet was the White House's favored candidate even though he was appointed to the Senate and had never seen his name on an election ballot before tonight.
Bennet withstood a bruising primary challenge from Andrew Romanoff, the former Colorado house speaker who was endorsed by former President Bill Clinton.
Clinton, who knows Romanoff personally, did not actively campaign in Colorado, but he did record a last-minute robo-call for Romanoff. Bennet had 54 percent of the vote to Romanoff's 45 percent with 65 percent of precincts reporting.
On the Republican side in Colorado, Ken Buck, a county attorney defeated Jane Norton, the former lieutenant governor.
Buck had the nod of strict conservative Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Norton has gotten praise but no endorsement from Palin. Norton also campaigned with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.
Norton said some unfortunate things about his choice of footwear and remarked that people should vote for him because "I do not wear high heels."
Buck is seen by some as a gaffe-prone sound-bite machine. He will present a test for the tea party. Read more on the year of the Republican woman here.
In the race for the Republican Senate nomination in Connecticut, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon seemed to be running away. McMahon, who spent $25 million of her own money on the primary, was well ahead of former Rob. Rob Simmons and Peter Schiff -- 48-29-22.
McMahon's decisive win came despite efforts by Simmons and Democrats to exploit her time as a WWE executive. They circulated clips of her in the wrestling ring and taking part in wrestling storylines unlikely to sit well with women's groups or the family-values set.
In recent weeks, women's groups condemned some odd clips of McMahon and her husband doing their day job at WWE in recent years; talking smack and getting smacked by her daughter. Connecticut Democrats have compiled the most interesting videos in a playlist viewable by clicking here.
After her victory, McMahon tried to move beyond the controversy, saying her election in November would help children.
"This election is about jobs," she said in a prepared statement. "The American Dream is threatened, but Washington continues its reckless spending, massive debt, and tax increases. Washington is suffocating small businesses and killing jobs. This is not only threatening our well-being, but also the well-being of our children and grandchildren."
Democrats tried to spin McMahon's failure to crack 50 percent as a failure given the vast resources she poured into the campaign.
Simmons, her closest rival, shuttered his campaign for more than a month before a last-ditch effort to revive it before primary day.
Democrats also made clear that the WWE theme will be front and center through November.
"Connecticut Republicans today nominated a corporate CEO of WWE, who, under her watch, violence was peddled to kids, steroid abuse was rampant, yet she made her millions," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chairman, after McMahon's victory.
McMahon's Democratic opponent in the fall will be Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Blumenthal was widely seen as the favorite and may still be, but his reputation has taken a beating since he overstated his war record on several occasions.
Elsewhere in Connecticut, Ned Lamont, the Democrat who edged Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party in the 2006 Senate primary, lost his bid for the Democratic governor's slot to Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy.
In another gubernatorial primary, conservative State Rep. Tom Emmer easily won the GOP nomination in Minnesota, the Associated Press reported. Four Democrats were vying to face him in the general election.
In the Colorado governor's race, the real tests will come in November. Former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo, a firebrand in the anti-illegal immigration movement, has left his party to join the small-time American Constitution Party.
Should he stay in the race, his presence could give aid to Democrats, especially with the deeply flawed Republican candidate Scott McInnis, who has been accused of plagiarism, also running.