So is 2010 another Year of the Woman? A Year of GOP Women? Neither?

That last option appears to be the closest to the truth, according to NOW. “Women now hold 90 seats in Congress: 69 are Democrats and 21 are Republicans. After the November election, Congress could end up with as many as 10 fewer female members, prognosticators now say, the first backslide in the uninterrupted march of women to Washington since 1978,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Those “prognosticators” were especially busy last week, after yet another set of primaries cast a spotlight on another set of women who may, or may not, help strengthen women’s representation in governors’ mansions and the U.S. Senate.  All face bruising opposition, of course; in at least one of these races, the primary itself is so close that it may not be decided until November is almost upon us.

Slugfest in the snow? That close primary is, of course, in the great state of Alaska. The enormously popular Senator Lisa Murkowski is now waiting for the absentee ballot count after narrowly losing her primary to Joseph Miller,  a longtime ally of the state’s former  half-term governor, Sarah Palin. (Palin famously defeated Murkowski’s father, Gov.  Frank Murkowski, back in 2006). Murkowski’s confidence led her to spurn negative campaigning, which her opponent did not. And after Miller’s apparent victory by 1,668 votes, the negative campaigning became openly misogynist: when Murkowski contemplated a third-party challenge,  Miller’s staff issued a tweet calling Murkowski a whore. “What’s the difference between selling out your party’s values and the world’s oldest profession?” asked @JoeWMiller. Miller immediately retreated, turning his fire back to the National Senatorial Campaign Committee. The Democratic Party immediately saw an opportunity for its candidate Scott McAdams, which would thus decrease the number of women in the Senate. But with 20,000 absentee ballots to count, watch for the fun to continue for months — and don’t rule out that independent-candidate option, akin to Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman or Florida’s Charlie Crist.

Sunshine on whose shoulders? Speaking of Florida,  the other big narrative of the political press this season has been the continued dominance of self-financed candidates like healthcare executive Rick Scott, who defeated Florida’s attorney general last week for the GOP nomination to succeed Crist as the state’s governor. But the Year of the Woman, Half-Strength Edition may not be completely over. Scott’s already facing stiff competition from banker Alex Sink, Florida’s popular chief financial officer, who spent years at the Export-Import Bank and Bank of America before being elected to her current position. She’s a low-key diversity story in another way, as an Asian-American descendant of the original “Siamese twins,” Chang and Eng Bunker. And she’s already running blistering ads against Scott, whose Columbia/HCA healthcare conglomerate has often been mired in scandal. But her main task, says the Miami Herald, is also getting the fractious Sunshine State voters to know who she is, too.

Show me the dynasty? Not that she had any opposition in the August 3 primary, but Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan is already meeting headwinds in her bid to replace Senator Kit Bond. Carnahan, an attorney who helped Eastern European nations craft new constitutions after the Cold War, has perhaps the most familiar name in Missouri aside from John Ashcroft’s. After the death of her father, Mel Carnahan, in a plane crash, his Senate seat went to her mother, Jean, in a tradition that was once the only way women ever got to Congress. Carnahan’s fate now, in famously mercurial Missouri, appears closely tied to national politics; her opponent, Roy Blunt, is already blasting  her support for health reform, in a state that just voted against it in a meaningless referendum. But we wouldn’t count her out: Carnahan has survived breast cancer and the death of her father, and our guess is that she’s pretty tough.

These three races to watch join the others we wrote about earlier. In Connecticut, Linda McMahon is close in the polls with Democrat Richard Blumenthal, especially after ads featuring injured former wrestlers who once worked for her. The same is true in California for eBay CEO Meg Whitman’s governor’s race and a closer-than-expected race between Senator Barbara Boxer and Hewlett-Packard exec Carly Fiorina, and the funhouse-mirror national slugfest between Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle and Majority Leader Harry Reid.  But it’s a long way to November.  Our task is to remain engaged, check the facts as we go along, and stock up on popcorn.

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