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King Dethroned, and Other Notes from the June 2 primaries


— Rep. Steve King’s (R, IA-4) primary loss makes his Republican-leaning seat easier for the GOP to defend.

— There weren’t many other surprises from Tuesday night.

Table 1: Crystal Ball House rating change

Member/District Old Rating New Rating
IA-4 Open (King, R) Likely Republican Safe Republican

Notes from Tuesday’s primaries

The first Tuesday in June of a presidential year is often a major political event — but for a lot of obvious reasons, this year’s early June primaries did not feature much drama or excitement.

— The headline result, and the only one that is prompting us to make a rating change, is Rep. Steve King’s (R, IA-4) primary loss to state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R) in a Republican-leaning northwest Iowa district. King’s litany of racist comments had become impossible to ignore, and Republican leadership had stripped him of his committee assignments. This district voted for Donald Trump by a 60%-33% margin, and King’s narrow, three-point victory in 2018 had a lot to do with his abhorrent comments. With King out of the picture, Feenstra should be fine against 2018 nominee J.D. Scholten (D). We moved IA-4 from Likely Republican to Safe Republican on Tuesday night.

— Also in Iowa, real estate developer Theresa Greenfield (D) won the right to take on Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) in what is shaping up to be an expensive, competitive contest. Outside Democratic groups pumped in millions to boost Greenfield, who won by 48%-25% over her closest rival. The heavy, early expenditure might seem like overkill. That said, national Democrats argue that not only did they get Greenfield through the primary, but they also bolstered her positive name ID for the race against Ernst. It may be that the effects of such advertising are ephemeral, though. Iowa remains a Leans Republican race, although it is very much part of the Democrats’ plans to play offense in the Senate, and both sides will pump in lots of money.

— As expected, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R, MT-AL) will face off against Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney (D) for the open Montana governorship. As of right now, this Toss-up race is really the only gubernatorial race in the country that seems extremely competitive at this point. After four straight gubernatorial losses in this red state, Republicans seem due for a win, but this is still a Toss-up. The Senate race, featuring Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT), is, like Iowa, another competitive Senate race where the GOP probably still retains an edge, albeit a small one.

— National Republicans were pleased to see Trump-backed former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller (R) narrowly win the right to face Rep. Susan Wild (D, PA-7) in an eastern Pennsylvania swing district. However, former Trump administration official Jim Bognet (R) won the primary in neighboring PA-8; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-23) had endorsed another candidate. Bognet will face Rep. Matt Cartwright (D, PA-8) in a district Trump won by 10 points. We rate both of these Pennsylvania districts Leans Democratic.

— In NM-2, a 50%-40% Trump district held by first-term Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D), 2018 GOP nominee Yvette Herrell (R) dispatched businesswoman Claire Chase (R). National Republicans seemed to prefer Chase, and an outside Democratic group spent money to boost Herrell. This is still a Toss-up given the district, but Torres Small may very well have an edge. Meanwhile, former CIA officer Valerie Plame (D) lost to progressive attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez (D) in another nasty primary in NM-3. The district voted 52%-37% for Clinton, so it should be an easy hold for Democrats in the fall.

— Joe Biden is closing in on clinching the number of delegates needed to formally secure the Democratic presidential nomination. According to our count with Decision Desk HQ, Biden is at 1,861 and needs 1,991. With 930 delegates remaining to be allocated, he should clinch soon.