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GOP, Democrats find good news in primary results

U.S. Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire became the first sitting senator ousted in the 2002 election cycle.
U.S. Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire became the first sitting senator ousted in the 2002 election cycle.  

From John Mercurio
CNN Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- This week's "Super Tuesday" primaries offered some good news to Republicans waging key battles in New Hampshire and Florida, while New York Democrats saw their prospects brighten slightly .

Free-spending millionaire Tom Golisano beat New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, for the Independence Party ballot line. Pataki had wanted to appear on the ballot as both a Republican and an Independent, to keep Golisano out of the race.

Golisano's top aide, Roger Stone, harbors personal animosity toward Pataki for a past business deal and has vowed that his candidate will spend generously to defeat the two-term governor.

Florida voters await results 

Democrats had already strengthened their challenge to Pataki last week when former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, lagging in polls and facing opposition from party leaders, quit the race and endorsed front-runner Carl McCall, the state comptroller.

In New Hampshire, however, Rep. John Sununu's 10-point victory over Sen. Bob Smith was clearly good news for GOP efforts to beat a strong Democratic nominee, Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Shaheen faced no major primary opposition Tuesday.

Polls have consistently shown that Sununu fares far better against Shaheen than Smith, a staunch conservative. Despite a bitter primary, Smith has vowed to support Sununu this fall.

"We all have one shared goal and that is to send Jeanne Shaheen back to the private sector," Sununu said Tuesday evening during a victory party in Bedford, New Hampshire. "Jeanne Shaheen is a liberal Democrat. She supported Walter Mondale and Al Gore. She's now part of a Democratic tax ticket. New Hampshire deserves better. New Hampshire needs better."

And in Florida, where the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary is still unclear, the ultimate nominee will face a sharply divided party and is sure to lack the post-primary "bounce" needed to begin a competitive challenge to Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican.

"I feel like throwing up," Robin Rorapaugh, who managed Tampa attorney Bill McBride's campaign, told the Miami Herald Tuesday evening.

Rorapaugh's queasiness notwithstanding, Florida Democrats appear likely to nominate McBride, who polls show poses a more serious threat to Bush than his rival for the nomination, former Attorney General Janet Reno. So McBride offers Democrats some reason to hope they could still oust President Bush's brother in the most hotly contested state of the 2000 presidential election.

Jeb Bush is also likely to face criticism over the confusion that again surrounded voting in Florida on Tuesday, two years after the governor personally vowed the state would undertake effective election reform to fix voting problems that plagued the 2000 balloting.

"Super Tuesday" offered mixed results in Maryland for the most famous name in Democratic politics: Kennedy.

Mark Shriver, a nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy and a state lawmaker, narrowly lost a House Democratic primary in the Washington suburbs. And while Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, won the party's gubernatorial nod, she lost 20 percent of the vote to Robert Fustero, a retired grocery clerk and political unknown who spent less than $1,000 on his primary bid. Townsend had spent $2.3 million as of August 31.

Those results came one week after Cuomo, who's married to Townsend's sister, Kerry Kennedy, withdrew last week. And last year, Max Kennedy declined to run for an open House seat in the Boston area after polls showed he would lose badly.

"It's been a tough couple weeks for the Kennedy dynasty," said a source close to the family. "Things have changed slightly as more and more people forget about Camelot about the glory days of Camelot, there is no clear win for Kennedys in politics anymore. In years past more deference was given to them as they won. But not anymore."

Women running for the Senate and governors' chairs had a mixed night Tuesday. Elizabeth Dole easily won the Republican nomination for Senate in North Carolina, while Shaheen prevailed in New Hampshire. Democrats Townsend, Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Myrth York of Rhode Island also won gubernatorial races. But Reno is trailing McBride, and female candidates lost gubernatorial contests in Arizona, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

--CNN Producer Dana Bash contributed to this report.




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