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Washington State's 'Top-Two' Primary May Thwart Tea Party

Aug 16, 2010 (All Things Considered)

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Tea party-favored candidates have done well in several of the Senate primaries held around the nation so far this year. For example, there's Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sharron Angle in Nevada.

But NPR's Martin Kaste reports that the way votes will be cast tomorrow in Washington State is likely to work against the candidate who has the most tea party support.

"The 'top-two' primary — Washington state's relatively new system in which all candidates run in one big pack, regardless of party, and the top two finishers advance to the general election" — would seem to favor moderate candidates and has allowed Republican front-runner Dino Rossi to focus on the incumbent, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, Martin reports on today's edition of All Things Considered.

Clint Didier, NFL-player-turned-alfalfa-farmer, is the Sarah Palin-endorsed favorite of the tea party folks. He's been trying, Martin says, to position himself as a Republican — just not an "establishment Republican."

But as voter Tom Hedges tells Martin, even though he leans toward the tea party, he's likely to vote for Rossi in the primary because he thinks Rossi stands a better chance of beating Murray in the fall.

Still, Didier is pressing. As The Seattle Times' Politics Northwest blog reports, Palin "has lent her voice to a last-minute flurry of Didier robo calls" to voters' homes. She calls him "a new kind of Republican" and "a true conservative dedicated to our nation's bedrock pinciples of limited government."

Washington is one of two states with primaries tomorrow. The other is Wyoming, where the highest-profile race is for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Four major hopefuls are vying for the chance to see if Republicans can take back the governor's mansion (Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal is not seeking a third term). There are two major Democratic contenders for that party's nomination.

By the way, NPR's Political Junkie — Ken Rudin — is due back from vacation tomorrow. So check with him for more on this week's voting.

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