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Lou Ann Zelenik, the Republican House candidate in Tennessee who made opposition to a local Muslim community center project a top issue for her campaign, has ultimately lost her Republican primary -- but not by much.

With 100% of precincts reporting, state Sen. Diane Black has 31% of the vote, followed by Zelenik with 30%, and state Sen. Jim Tracy also with 30%. On the Democratic side, attorney and Iraq War veteran Brett Carter has won with a similarly slim plurality of 30%, edging out attorney Henry Clay Barry and Iraq veteran Ben Leming with 29% each.

As we'd previously reported, Zelenik made opposition to the Muslim center a big issue for her campaign -- and attacked the other candidates for not opposing it enough. She boldly declared: "Until the American Muslim community find it in their hearts to separate themselves from their evil, radical counterparts, to condemn those who want to destroy our civilization and will fight against them, we are not obligated to open our society to any of them."

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Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) has been easily renominated in his Democratic primary tonight, beating back former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton's effort to make race an issue against the white progressive Congressman from a majority-black district.

With 59% of precincts reporting, Cohen leads by a whopping 79%-20%. This result so far seems identical to last cycle's Dem primary, in which the incumbent Cohen faced a challenge that not only centered around race, but also featured seemingly anti-Semitic attacks against him.

As we'd noted earlier, Herenton had focused his campaign around race, arguing that Tennessee's currently all-white Congressional delegation should have a black member from this majority African-American district. He even made such statements as telling the voters to "come off that Cohen plantation and get on the Herenton freedom train."

But it clearly did not work, as Cohen was supported by President Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus -- and the Democratic primary voters of the district, too.

Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam has easily won the Republican nomination for governor of Tennessee, to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen -- and he perhaps didn't even need the "silly vote" to be split between two other candidates.

With only 7% of precincts reporting, Haslam has 51%, Congressman Zach Wamp has 27%, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has 21%. It must be noted, however, that these returns represent much, much more than a mere 7% of the total ballots, due to the fact that it includes a large number of the early votes. As such, Haslam has been projected as the winner by the Associated Press.

As we'd previously noted, this primary saw the other two candidates seeming to trip over each other to be more right wing than the other. Ramsey speculated that Islam might not be covered by the First Amendment's guarantee of the free exercise of religion, on the grounds that it's not really a religion but is instead a "cult." Meanwhile, Wamp flirted with the idea of Tennessee seceding from the United States (again), if the 2010 and 2012 elections did not go well. (Fun fact: A disliked election result in 1860 was the final straw that led to Southern secession last time.)

Meanwhile, Haslam only tacked slightly rightward, abandoning his former ties to New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's gun control efforts. And as the only "sensible party" candidate in the race, he obviously did quite well. He now faces Democratic businessman Mike McWherter, son of Dem former Gov. Ned McWhether. The TPM Poll Average gives Haslam an early lead of 48.0%-30.0%.

Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) fired back today at a recent ad by his opponent in the Connecticut Senate GOP primary, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, by blasting the indecency of WWE's programming.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Bringing The Smackdown: Linda McMahon's Campaign For Senate, And Her Colorful Pro-Wrestling Past]

During an appearance on Hardball, Chris Matthews asked Simmons about McMahon's ad, which shows two women talking to each other in a car, and concluding that WWE was a "soap opera" and that McMahon was a strong businesswoman who could shake up Washington.

"Well I think it makes those two women look a little bit like airheads," said Simmons. "Look, I'm like you. Back in the days when I was a kid, I saw Haystack Calhoun wrestle in New London. It was a lot of fun, it was a carnival show. But when you see a Down syndrome wrestler being beat up and abused, and his head being pushed in the toilet by Mrs. McMahon's husband and son, that's not funny. And that ad simply ridicules some of the ugly behaviors that they've promoted as soap opera. It's not soap opera. It's ugly, it shouldn't be marketed to our children."

The Republican primary will be held this Tuesday, August 10. The TPM Poll Average shows McMahon ahead with 48.9%, followed by Simmons at 28.7%, and financial commentator Peter Schiff with 13.9%.

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Republicans have been trying to extract as much political gain as possible from the ethical clouds surrounding Democrats Charlie Rangel (NY) and Maxine Waters (CA). But in an unexpected statement this afternoon, House Minority Leader John Boehner acknowledged it's not making much of a difference.

"It's a sad day for the House when members are charged with violating the rules of the House," Boehner told WHAS in Louisville, KY in an interview, "This is going to play itself out, but I don't expect it's going to have a big impact on the election."

Boehner was in Kentucky to help Republican Todd Lally defeat incumbent Democrat John Yarmuth.

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Rep. Kendrick Meek, who's battling Jeff Greene in Florida's Democratic Senate primary, is out today with a new internal poll that shows he and Greene statistically neck-and-neck. The poll, conducted from August 1-3 by the Feldman Group, shows Meek with 46%, Greene with 45%, and former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre with 8%. The margin of error is ±3.5 percentage points.

Abe Dyk, Meek's campaign manager, writes that the poll's crosstabs contain more good news for Meek:

Kendrick leads by six points among those voters who have participated in each of the last four Democratic primaries and by four points among those who voted in the August 2008 primary election. Kendrick also enjoys a double digit advantage in the four Congressional districts with contested U.S. House primaries. Grassroots turnout will be critical, and Kendrick is running a grassroots campaign. Higher turnout in those districts give Kendrick a real boost.


Polling of the race has been scant and varied, but the latest Quinnipiac poll showed Greene leading Meek 33%-23%. The primary is August 24.

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), who lost his primary on June 22 by a whopping 71%-29% margin, appeared on CNN this afternoon to further discuss the forces that took him out of office: Crazy right-wing conspiracy theories, and his inability and refusal to go along with it.

CNN host Rick Sanchez went over a recent piece on Inglis in Mother Jones, in which Inglis talked about the crazies that he would come across on the campaign trail.

Sanchez read from Inglis's recollection of a conversation with some voters: "'Bob, what don't you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn [the US] into a Muslim nation.'"

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A Muslim civil rights advocate says it's "concerning" that more prominent New York Democrats aren't speaking up in the debate over new mosque projects in New York City. Ibrahim Ramey, civil rights director for the Muslim American Society in Washington, told me today that it surprises him how few Democratic politicians have spoken up as angry right-wing protesters have taken on mosque projects in Staten Island, Brooklyn and, of course, lower Manhattan.

"It's been very, very disappointing really," Ramey said. "To the extent that we're not hearing from prominent Democrats, it really is a concerning thing. Concerning for Muslims and for the nation as a whole."

Check out TPM's roundup on what New York Dems have said -- and haven't said -- about the issue here.

Ramey said for him, it's not about the politics. He just expects more politicians to offer the no-holds-barred statements in support of Muslim rights that he said New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg did in his recent speech endorsing the so-called Ground Zero mosque project.

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