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Crowley: GOP's backing based on electability

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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Both parties kept a close eye on the results from Tuesday's primaries, to see how the balance of power in Congress might play out in November's general election. In one of the most closely watched races, Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee turned back a tough primary challenge from a conservative contender.

Soledad O'Brien interviewed CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley Wednesday about the winners, the losers, and what the results mean.

O'BRIEN: Let's begin with some of the races we were watching the most closely. I guess the biggest deal was that Chafee didn't lose -- that's the headline there. How close was it?

CROWLEY: It wasn't that close. He won by about eight points. This was a really interesting race, simply because most Republicans consider Chafee to be what they call a RINO, which stands for "Republican in Name Only."

But this year, when there's a battle for the majority in the Senate, just having an "R" after his name and being in a pretty liberal state it was was enough to bring the Republicans into the state. They helped Chafee with his turnout, they gave him money for his ads, that sort of thing, because they really believed that Laffey, his opponent, wouldn't win [in the general election].

Laffey was much more conservative. They knew that in the general, if they're going to keep [as senator] from Rhode Island somebody with an "R" after their name, they had to help Chafee, so they did. However, Chafee doesn't really have a cakewalk when it comes to the general. He faces some pretty stiff competition. But Republicans have passed Phase 1 here.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about Kweisi Mfume. He was running for the Democratic candidate for the Senate [in Maryland] and he ended up losing. If he had won, that would have set up a pretty interesting race.

CROWLEY: It really would. It's still going to be an interesting race. But the Republican who's running for Senate, Michael Steele, is an African-American Republican. Had Kweisi Mfume won this [primary] battle against Rep. Ben Cardin, we would have had an African- American against an African-American and it would have been an interesting and historical race.

If Michael Steele should win -- and remember, Maryland is a pretty Democratic state, so we'll see -- but if he should win, it would bring a Republican African- American to the Senate, which would be not unprecedented, but nonetheless it hasn't happened in more than 40 years.

O'BRIEN: What are the other big races that you think we should talk about?

CROWLEY: There was a great race in Arizona in the 8th District. Mostly it was a Republican-on-Republican primary. It was interesting because there was a conservative, Randy Graf, who argued that no illegal immigrants would come in and get any sort of amnesty or be put on a path to citizenship, [we should] toughen up the borders.

He was up against a more moderate Republican [state Rep. Steve Huffman] who said, more along the Bush lines, that we have to have a path to citizenship. The conservative won on this, the tougher on immigration, even though the Republican Party tried to help the moderate because they're a little worried that this seat, which is currently Republican, is going to [become] a Democratic pickup in the House. They don't need any more of those.


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CNN senior political corresondent Candy Crowley

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