TOP OF THE TICKET
In a midterm year where which party controls the U.S. Senate will headline Election Day, businessman Mike McFadden swept to an easy victory Tuesday for the Republican Senate nomination in Minnesota.
McFadden argued he was the only candidate who could raise enough money to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
After the party endorsed McFadden in May, the only credible challenger to stay in the race was state Rep. Jim Abeler, who ran a shoestring campaign from a reconditioned ambulance and raised only about $146,000. McFadden brought in $4.3 million.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce promised "aggressive" spending for McFadden when it endorsed him earlier this month, and the national party tapped McFadden to deliver its weekly radio address last Saturday.
"We are heading in the wrong direction. America is experiencing one of the slowest economic recoveries in the nation's history," McFadden said, promising to bring "real independent leadership to Washington."
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson emerged from a four-way Republican primary field for the right to take on Minnesota's Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
Johnson had won the party's endorsement, which meant a presumed edge in the phone bank and door-knock operation - a key in a low-turnout election.
Businessman Scott Honour had the money advantage and cast himself as the outsider with business acumen. Former state House Speaker Kurt Zellers pledged not to raise taxes and reminded voters he had battled with Dayton before. And former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert pursued a low-dollar strategy aimed at rural Minnesota.
Johnson faces a tough campaign against Dayton, who has scored well in approval polls and enjoys a state economy that's outperforming most of its neighbors. Dayton also can point to legislative achievements that include a minimum wage increase and legalized gay marriage.
A CHALLENGE TO WALKER
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is back on the ballot this fall, seeking re-election to an office he's already won twice - first in 2010, and again in a 2012 recall election. And if he wins in November, he could be on ballots again in 2016 as a candidate for president - living proof for Republicans that refusing to compromise on conservative principles is a winning strategy.
Former Trek Bicycles executive Mary Burke easily won the Democratic nomination to face Walker. She faced only nominal competition from Brett Hulsey, a state lawmaker who raised almost no money for the campaign and was largely shunned by party leaders, donors and other office holders.
But the race is much closer than expected given Walker's success surviving the recall election by a 7-point margin in 2012. His approval rating, which was near 50 percent during the recall, is 47 percent today, (with 48 percent disapproving) - even though 54 percent of those polled say they believe the state is moving in the right direction. Burke is targeting swing voters and independents who might be turned off by Walker's unapologetically conservative policies. At the same time, Walker is seeking to portray Burke's wealth in a negative light and highlighting outsourcing practices at Trek.
Walker is also facing potential allegations of campaign law violations, but the special prosecutor leading the investigation said earlier this summer that there haven't been any conclusions about whether there is enough evidence to charge him or anyone else with a crime.
The action on the GOP side of the ballot came in the race to replace Republican Rep. Tom Petri, who is retiring after 18 terms in office. Glenn Grothman defeated fellow state Sen. Joe Leibham and state Rep. Duey Stroebel to win the nomination.
Leibham and Grothman are better-known, but Stroebel, a wealthy real estate developer, spent heavily on television ads. A fourth candidate, retired technical college instructor Tom Denow, had been largely silent.
Rep. Michele Bachmann's retirement is a plum for the winner of the Republican primary - a perch in Minnesota's most conservative district that could last for years.
Tom Emmer, who lost the 2010 governor's race to Dayton by some 9,000 votes, cruised to victory in the GOP primary for the 6th District seat being vacated by Bachmann.
Emmer raised more than $1 million, more than twice that of Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah. Emmer has spent the past two years on conservative talk radio and is deeply conservative, but if elected isn't likely to generate the headlines Bachmann did.
Businessman Tom Foley won the Republican primary for governor, setting up a rematch with Democrat Dannel P. Malloy, who narrowly defeated him four years ago and is seeking a second term.
Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland under President George W. Bush, had the GOP endorsement in his primary race against Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.
The wide-ranging gun control law passed after the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown figured prominently in the primary campaign. McKinney, a veteran legislator whose district includes Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, defended his work to help craft the bipartisan legislation. Foley avoided outlining specific concerns with the law but said he disapproved of restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.
Foley, of Greenwich, lost to Malloy by just 6,404 votes out of 1.1 million votes cast in 2010.
Democrats in Montana will select a nominee Saturday to replace Sen. John Walsh on the November ballot. The former Army National Guard general pulled out of his race last week amid allegations he plagiarized large sections of a capstone paper while a student at the Army War College.
A week from Tuesday comes primary elections in Wyoming and Alaska, where the three-way race in the GOP Senate primary is the highlight. The winner will face Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in November.