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Nine big takeaways from last night's primaries

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Voters In California Head To Polls To Cast Ballots In State's Primary Election
Voters cast their ballots at a Masonic Lodge in Los Angeles, California on June 5, 2018.Mario Tama / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — In the end, both Democrats and Republicans had a strong primary night in California. Despite all of the speculation that Dems could get shut out of three key House races under the state’s Top 2 primary system, and that the GOP could meet the same fate at the top of the ticket, it looks like both parties avoided disaster.

Here are our nine takeaways from last night’s primaries across the country.

1. It appears Dems escaped getting locked out of those important California House races

While not all of the votes are in, it looks like Democrats cleared the hurdles of making the Top 2 in CA-39 (where the top finishers were Republican Young Kim at 22 percent and Democrat Gil Cisneros at 19 percent), in CA-48 (where Democrat Harley Rouda currently has a 73-vote lead over fellow Dem Hans Keirstead for second place) and in CA-49 (where the top finishers are Republican Diane Harkey at 26 percent and Dem Mike Levin at 17 percent). Give credit to the often-criticized DCCC: Not making the Top 2 was a legitimate threat in all three districts, but they did what they needed to do to avoid blowing winnable contests in November. But it sure ended up costing money and resources for the Democrats.

2. California Republicans avoided a shutout at the top of the ticket, too

With most precincts reporting, Democrat Gavin Newsom finished first with 33 percent of the vote, while Republican John Cox made the Top 2 at 26 percent. Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa finished third at 14 percent. Newsom clearly wanted Cox as his general-election opponent, and he got it. The question is whether that’s good news for the rest of the Democratic Party, especially House Democrats.

3. Some California GOP incumbents look strong; others look really, really weak

Here are the percentages that vulnerable GOP House incumbents received in last night’s Top 2 contests:

  • David Valadao (CA-21): 63 percent
  • Devin Nunes (CA-22): 58 percent
  • Mimi Walters (CA-45): 53 percent
  • Steve Knight (CA-25): 52 percent
  • Duncan Hunter (CA-50): 49 percent
  • Jeff Denham (CA-10): 38 percent
  • Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48): 30 percent

Those who were well above 55 percent look strong for November. Those below 50 percent are in trouble.

4. It was another good night for Democratic women

In the competitive House primaries in California, Katie Hill (in CA-25) and Katie Porter (CA-45) look like they made the Top 2 for Democrats, though Sara Jacobs didn’t (in CA-49). In Iowa, Abby Finkenauer (IA-1) and Cindy Axne (IA-3) easily triumphed in their primaries. And in New Mexico, Debra Haaland won the Democratic primary in NM-1, and Xochitl Torres Small won in NM-2, which will be a competitive general-election race in November.

5. It was a good night for members of Congress running statewide

Unlike what we saw in Indiana and West Virginia, having the title “Congressman”/”Congresswoman” wasn’t an impediment last night for statewide office for Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., who beat state Attorney General Marty Jackley in the primary for South Dakota governor. And a pair of members of Congress – Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce – will be the nominees in the race for New Mexico governor.

6. GOP congresswoman faces runoff after saying she wouldn’t vote for Trump in 2016

Incumbent Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., fell well short of the 50 percent she needed to avoid a runoff, and she’ll face the former Democratic congressman she beat in 2010, Bobby Bright. We’ll find out what’s worse: A Republican who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 (Roby)? Or a Democrat-turned-Republican (Bright) who voted for Nancy Pelosi for speaker?

7. Bob Menendez had a lackluster performance in New Jersey

Against a nominal challenger, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., got just 62 percent of the vote in last night’s Senate primary in the Garden State. In any other political environment, Menendez would be in trouble heading into November. So he’s lucky. And New Jersey Democrats have to ask themselves if they made a mistake not offering up a more credible alternative.

8. Iowa Democrats have their gubernatorial nominee

Wealthy businessman Fred Hubbell got 56 percent of the vote, easily clearing the 35 percent needed to avoid a nominating convention. Hubbell will take on incumbent GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds in the fall.

9. And Republicans have their Senate nominee in Montana

Finally, state Auditor Matt Rosendale beat Republican Russ Fagg in the GOP Senate contest, 34 percent to 28 percent. Rosendale will challenge Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in November.