Progressives' big night: Five takeaways from Tuesday's primaries

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Upsets  Rep. Joseph Crowley In NY Primary
Progressive challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrartes with supporters at a victory party in the Bronx after upsetting incumbent Democratic Representative Joseph Crowly on June 26 in New York City.Scott Heins / Getty Images

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — An incumbent congressman from New York lost to an aggressive primary challenger on Tuesday night. It just wasn’t the congressman many political observers had anticipated (Republican Dan Donovan). Instead, it was Joe Crowley, the No. 4-ranking House Democrat who some saw as possibly the next Democratic leader after Nancy Pelosi.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking upset over Crowley was the biggest news from Tuesday’s primaries and runoffs in Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah. And here are our five takeaways from last night:

1. It was the best primary showing of 2018 for progressives

In addition to Ocasio-Cortez’s upset over Crowley, Bernie Sanders-backed Ben Jealous won the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Maryland — representing Team Bernie’s biggest victory of the 2018 cycle. What’s more, Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., barely eked a primary challenge from the left from Adem Bunkeddko. Progressives on the left, take a bow.

2. But last night’s progressive wins have been the exception rather than the rule

Before last night’s victories by Ocasio-Cortez and Jealous, however, the most prominent progressive victory of 2018 — in a true establishment-vs.-insurgent contest — was Kara Eastman’s upset over former Congressman Brad Ashford in Nebraska, and Eastman wasn’t endorsed by Bernie Sanders. Bottom line: Establishment Dems, especially those with backing from the DCCC, have beaten most challenges from the left in 2018. And that trend continued in the top House battlegrounds last night (see #4 below).

3. The candidates endorsed by President Trump breezed to victory

It wasn’t that long ago when Trump-endorsed candidates were struggling at the ballot box — think Luther Strange in Alabama, or Roy Moore in Alabama, or Ed Gillespie in Virginia or Rick Saccone in PA-18. But last night, Trump’s endorsement mattered in NY-11 (where Dan Donovan crushed Michael Grimm) and in South Carolina’s GOP gubernatorial runoff (where incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster beat challenger John Warren). Oh, and Trump endorsed Mitt Romney in Utah’s Senate race. But we’d argue that Romney didn’t need any help from the sitting president: The former GOP presidential nominee easily beat his primary opponent, 72 percent to 28 percent.

4. Democrats got their top/preferred candidates in key House battlegrounds

In CO-6 (represented by vulnerable GOPer Mike Coffman), the DCCC-backed Jason Crow easily beat progressive Levi Tillemann. And in NY-19 (represented by vulnerable GOPer John Faso), frontrunner Antonio Delgado advanced to the general. The one exception was in NY-24 (represented by GOPer John Katko), where the candidate backed by the DCCC lost, but this district was probably already out of reach for Democrats; the Cook Political Report rates it as Likely Republican.

5. The gubernatorial frontrunners in Colorado advanced to the general

Finally, in the race to replace Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton (of the Bush clan) easily won their primaries and will face off in one of November’s top gubernatorial contests.

Crowley’s loss: Taps for the Pelosi/Hoyer hierarchy

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Crowley’s defeat was a perfect storm of events — a low-turnout election due to New York splitting its congressional primaries from its state contests (just 28,000 voted in this Queens/Bronx district), a lackluster campaign by the incumbent, a fired-up progressive candidacy, and a district that looked MORE like Ocasio-Cortez than Crowley (70 percent-plus Latino/African-American/Asian, just 24 percent white).

But maybe the biggest takeaway from Crowley’s defeat is that it’s an exclamation that House Democrats don’t have a next generation of new leaders — at least not yet. As the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis noted, “Crowley loss does not sound like a win for Pelosi/Hoyer. It sounds like Taps for the whole Dem hierarchy. Wake-up call for a party that has put off a generational change for too long.”

That generational change hasn’t come because Pelosi/Hoyer/Clyburn never stepped down after the Dem defeats of 2010, 2014 or 2016.

NBC/Marist polls: Dems lead in Arizona and Ohio Senate races, while Florida remains tight

As one of us wrote from yesterday’s trio of NBC/Marist polls, “In Arizona, Democrat Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is ahead of all three potential Republican opponents — Kelli Ward by 10 points among registered voters (48 percent to 38 percent), Rep. Martha McSally by 11 points (49 percent to 38 percent) and Joe Arpaio by 25 points (57 percent to 32 percent).”

“In Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, leads GOP challenger Jim Renacci by 13 points, 51 percent to 38 percent. But in Florida, the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Bill Nelson, gets support from 49 percent of registered voters, while his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, is at 45 percent — a result that’s within the poll’s margin of error.”

Also from the NBC/Marist polls: Voters in these three battlegrounds prefer candidates who are a check on Trump

And another of us has additional numbers from our new polls: “In Arizona, 52 percent of registered voters say they’ll use their vote to send a message that the country needs more Democrats to serve as a check on Trump, while 36 percent said the nation needs more Republicans to pass his agenda... In Florida, another key swing state that’s home to one of the marquee Senate races of the cycle, 49 percent of voters favor a Congress that serves as a check on Trump, while 40 percent want lawmakers to assist Trump in passing legislation... And in Ohio, 51 percent want more Democrats in Congress in order to counter Trump’s efforts, while 35 percent say they’d like to see more Republicans on Capitol Hill to help the president advance his agenda.”

By the way, here’s Trump’s job rating in these states:

And here’s the congressional preference in the three states:

Arizona: D+4 (43 percent prefer a Dem-controlled Congress, 39 percent want GOP)

Florida: D+3 (42 percent prefer Dems, 39 percent prefer GOP

Ohio: D+3 (43 percent prefer Dems, 40 percent prefer GOP).

Federal judge orders Trump administration to reunite migrant families

“A federal judge in San Diego ordered immigration agents on Tuesday to stop separating migrant parents and children who have crossed the border from Mexico and to work to reunite families that have already been split up while in custody,” per NBC News. “U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by an anonymous woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo and backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which pursued it as a class action as U.S. authorities began a ‘zero tolerance’ policy in early May.”

More: “The injunction orders immigration agents to:

-Stop separating parents and children without an objective finding that a parent is unfit.

-Reunify families with children under age 5 within 14 days.

-Reunify families with children 5 years old and older within 30 days.

-Let parents speak with their children by telephone within 10 days.”

Supreme Court gives Trump a win on his travel ban

The New York Times: “The Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, delivering to the president on Tuesday a political victory and an endorsement of his power to control immigration at a time of political upheaval about the treatment of migrants at the Mexican border.”