WASHINGTON -- Super Tuesday's primary results gave voters a much sharper, bolder definition of the Republicans' anti-incumbent campaign against the Democrats in the midterm elections.
Billed by the news media as "the year of the women," the GOP women who won Senate and gubernatorial nominations from South Carolina to Nevada to California certainly gave a refreshingly new political image to the party's emerging lineup.
But the GOP's primaries yielded more than that. They sharpened the contrasts they offered voters this year with anti-establishment, fiscally conservative, free-market advocates at a time when voters think government has become too big, too costly and dangerously hostile to the American free-enterprise system.
Here's my rundown of the major primary winners and what they portend for the GOP in November.
-- California: This state has been trending Democratic for more than a decade and remains a tough battleground for Republicans. But the state government is deeply in debt, its economy in shambles and job growth almost nonexistent.
This is an election tailor-made for business-trained outsiders who know how to balance a budget, manage a large bureaucracy and challenge entrenched political interests.
This description perfectly fits Meg Whitman, the former CEO and founder of eBay who won the gubernatorial nomination, and Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who is running for the Senate.
Whitman will be challenging former Gov. Jerry Brown, a lifelong liberal politician, and Fiorina is taking on liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer. Polls show both women are making this a competitive election.
In her victory speech Tuesday night, Whitman best defined what she and Fiorina stand for: "Career politicians in Washington and Sacramento and Washington, D.C., be warned, because you now face your worst nightmare: two businesswomen from the real world who know how to create jobs, balance budgets and get things done."
-- Nevada: Sharron Angle, a former assemblywoman, came from behind in a crowded field of candidates to win the right to run against Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid. She is a gutsy conservative fighter who is making Congress' out-of-control spending, the jobless recovery and Reid's blank-check support for President Obama's agenda the chief issues in her campaign. Angle won with strong support from the state Tea Party movement but also for her political skills as a counterpuncher who knows how to stay on offense.The nightly network news media has focused on her dyed-in-the-wool conservatism, but never mentions that Reid not only trails her in the polls but also trailed all GOP contenders for many months. His dismal approval rating in the state has been stuck around 40 percent.
Nevada's unemployment rate is 13.7 percent, and it has the highest foreclosure and bankruptcy rates in the country. Nearly one-quarter of the Democrats in Tuesday's primary voted for someone other than Reid.
A Rasmussen poll of likely voters Wednesday showed Angle with 50 percent support and Reid at 39 percent.
-- South Carolina: State Rep. Nikki Haley batted down adultery allegations late in her campaign and has positioned herself for a June 22 runoff for the GOP's gubernatorial nomination, which she should easily win.
But it was a state senator's racist remark that referred to her as "raghead" that angered many voters and only further boosted her support.
Articulate, stylish and supremely confident, she is being touted as one of the GOP's rising stars. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who campaigned for her, helped propel her candidacy in the conservative state. If she wins the governorship, she is destined to become a major figure in Republican politics.
The latest polls show her trailing Republican John Boozman by 20 points. Perhaps no single issue has damaged Lincoln more than her vote for Obama's healthcare plan, which remains unpopular in the state, especially among its large senior population.
Her primary fight has created deep divisions among Democrats in the state, particularly among rank-and-file unions because of her opposition to card-check legislation that would effectively ban the secret ballot in union elections. Unless the political climate changes dramatically in Arkansas, this seat becomes another GOP pickup.
The news media has been playing this election year as one that is just anti-incumbent, but it has really turned into something much more than that.
Democrats control both houses of Congress whose legislative policies are responsible for just about everything the voters are unhappy about: The nearly 10 percent unemployment rate in a jobless recovery, annual trillion-dollar budget deficits as far as the eye can see, a national debt that has gone over $13 trillion this year, an unpopular healthcare bill that is already killing job creation, and plans to raise taxes to pay for Obama's cradle-to-grave social-welfare programs.
This wave election is shaping up to be a referendum on the ruling party in Congress and the Obama presidency.