Primaries 2010: Palin's 'Mama Grizzly' Concedes; Obama, Tea Party Picks Win

Karen Handel concedes defeat to Nathan Deal, backed by the NRA.

August 11, 2010, 6:19 AM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2010 -- One of Sarah Palin's "Mama Grizzlies," Karen Handel, conceded defeat to former Georgia Rep. Nathan Deal today after a tight primary race that was too close to call.

In other hotly contested primaries Tuesday night, a Democratic establishment pick and a Tea Party favorite sailed to victory Tuesday in high-stakes primary contests brimming with big-name endorsements.

In Colorado's Senate primary, one of the most closely watched races, President Obama's pick, Michael Bennet, withstood a bruising primary challenge from Andrew Romanoff, the former state house speaker who was endorsed by former President Bill Clinton.

In Connecticut, former World Wrestling Entertainment chief executive's Linda McMahon's multimillion-dollar campaign paid off as she prevailed in the GOP primary for Senate.

2010 Election Maps: Follow the Senate, House and Governors' Races

Palin's last-minute campaign trip to Georgia Monday to lift Handel proved unsuccessful as the former Georgia secretary of state conceded defeat after a bitter battle for the Republican Senate candidacy.

"As of this morning, we are four-tenths of a percentage point behind Nathan Deal with absentee ballots and overseas military votes yet to be counted. We certainly have the option of requesting the automatic statewide recount.But we are not going to do that," Handel said in a statement today. "The best thing for our party is to rally around Congressman Deal as our nominee in the fight against Roy Barnes."

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.

More on the 2010 Races in Georgia

Keep track of Sarah Palin's Election Scorecard here.

Democrat Bennet emerged as the decisive victor in the primary for his seat. The former businessman 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 Tuesday night.

Clinton, who knows Romanoff personally, did not actively campaign in Colorado but recorded a last-minute robo-call for Romanoff.

Republicans are likely to target Obama's endorsement for Bennet in the November elections, as well as his votes for the $787 billion stimulus package and the controversial health care bill.

"I think we're going to unify the Democrats because we've got a positive message," Bennet said on "Good Morning America" today. "The Republican talking points are just not going to get us where we need to be."

But Bennet wouldn't say if he would continue to seek Obama's support in the coming months, saying his campaign will "have to give it some thought."

"We'll obviously have to do what's right for the campaign. ... We appreciate his help," he said. "We'll see what happens between now and November."

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 had gotten praise but no endorsement from Palin. Norton also campaigned with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

Buck, a Tea Party favorite, is seen by some as a gaffe-prone sound-bite machine. He was blasted by his critics for saying that people should vote for him because, "I do not wear high heels."

"It's not easy to love a candidate that has a cowboy boot in his mouth," Buck joked at the time.

How Buck fares in November will present a test for the Tea Party supporters, which helped build Buck's grassroots momentum.

More on the 2010 Races in Colorado

Read more on the year of the Republican woman here.

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, 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.

Connecticut: Linda McMahon Gets GOP Senate Nod

In the race for the Republican Senate nomination in Connecticut, McMahon, who spent nearly $25 million of her own money on the primary, was well ahead of former Rep. Rob Simmons and Peter Schiff.

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 that didn't sit well with women's groups or the family-values set.

McMahon today defended WWE's record and its programming that has increasingly gotten more risque and violent in recent years.

"It is an industry that's evolved and it will continue to evolve," McMahon said on GMA, adding that with any company when one looks back, "there were things that I would've done differently. What is important is, I think, where we are today and where we will be tomorrow."

In recent weeks, women's groups condemned some video clips of McMahon and her husband doing their day job at WWE, talking smack and getting smacked by her daughter. Connecticut Democrats compiled the most interesting videos in a playlist distributed widely.

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," Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chairman, said after McMahon's victory.

McMahon dismissed Democrats' criticism.

"I think the Democrats are going to continue to do what they've been doing from the beginning and that is really attacking WWE," she said. "I'm going to continue to talk about the issues ... which is jobs, getting people back to work, the economy, because that's whats on their mind and that's what proven to be effective throughout my campaign so far."

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.

More on the 2010 Races in Connecticut

In another key gubernatorial primary, conservative State Rep. Tom Emmer easily won the GOP nomination in Minnesota. Four Democrats were vying to face him in the general election.

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