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Parsing The Numbers Of A Tuesday Packed With Primaries


Joining us now to talk more about yesterday's elections and what the results may tell us is NPR Senior Editor and Correspondent Ron Elving. Hey there, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Audie.

CORNISH: So there were primaries and runoffs in seven states. What's most striking to you about the results.

ELVING: Oh, it's got to be the two more key races Cochran we just heard about, of course and Charles Rangel, the legendary controversial congressman from New York, who was just nominated for his 23rd term in the House. Now, here you have a white, old-school, Southern gent, like Cochran down in Mississippi and a streetwise, black, powerbroker from Harlem. Between the two of them, they have eighty years of combined seniority in Congress. And they both won yesterday by appealing directly to African American voters. And you heard Debbie describe, a moment ago, the dynamic in Mississippi. In Rangel's case, he was rallying black voters in Harlem to offset what is now a Hispanic majority in this particular district of New York City, based largely in the Bronx.

CORNISH: And I want to play some tape from last night that gets to that idea. Here are a couple of voters - one who cast his ballot for Rangel and another who explains why she voted for his challenger, Adriano Espaillat. And we'll start with her.


AUDIE LAURA: 'Cause we're Dominicans, like I am, so we all think - I mean, it's time for one of us to be there and represent us, 'cause we want someone from our own to be there and give us, you know, support, whatever we need.

CHARLES SURSEY: I like his personality. I like his style. You know, and I like the fact that he's for the people. He's just 84 in age. His mind is still intact.

CORNISH: That's Charles Sursey (PH) of Harlem, who voted for Charles Rangel and before that, Audie Laura of New York's Washington Heights neighborhood, who voted for Rangel's Dominican challenger. Ron, this kind of tribal identity voting.

ELVING: There you have it. It's a perfect illustration of a fundamental political truth. We all like to vote for someone who is quote, "one of us," unquote.

CORNISH: Now, I also want to turn to the Tea Party. We just heard in Debbie Elliott's piece about the frustrations of Tea Party activists in Mississippi. Just how big a blow was this?

ELVING: It was a big blow because of the expectation factor. A lot of Tea Party folks already had McDaniel in the Senate - Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and some of their other champions.

CORNISH: In their mind.

ELVING: Exactly, and, you know, there were also some Republican primaries up in New York that were disappointing. And then there was the Republican Senate primary in Oklahoma.

CORNISH: Tell us what happened in Oklahoma.

ELVING: Another candidate, a Tea Party favorite at the national level. This was somebody backed by Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, but not necessarily only - the only candidate that the Tea Party people like. The locals in Oklahoma were happy with both candidates. The national candidate with T. W. Shannon and his main opponent was a Con. James Lankford. Now Lankford may be more establishment but certainly reliable conservative, even by the standards of today's House. A lot of conservatives liked T. W. Shannon, a former legislator there, in part because he brings diversity to the Tea Party movement as both an African-American and a member of the Chickasaw Indian tribe. But in the end, what was supposed to be a close race leading to a runoff, turned into a blowout. And Lankford won outright with close to 60 percent.

CORNISH: So where does the Tea Party go from here?

ELVING: You know we've been up and down on the Tea Party roller coaster all spring. We wrote them off in April and May, when they weren't winning anywhere. And then the first Cochran vote happened. And then Eric Cantor lost in his Richmond area district in Virginia. That was a huge shock. And the Tea Party seemed to be rising. Now after yesterday, they look as though they're down again. But there's a misperception here that we as journalists need to deal with.

CORNISH: And Ron, what message do you take away from all of this?

ELVING: You know, the Tea Party is just not a conventional party organization or a corporation or even a political action committee. It's more a state of mind, a shared energy, a shared anger at the workings of Washington and the direction of our national culture. It's going to be felt again and again in different ways around the country. And even when they fail to actually win a primary, they're having a tremendous effect. It's moving incumbents towards a more populist, grassroots kind of conservatism all over the country.

CORNISH: That's NPR Senior Editor and Political Correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thank you.

ELVING: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for
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