- California, New Jersey, Iowa and Montana are among the states that held primary elections on Tuesday.
- Early returns indicate Democrats have a good shot of avoiding their worst fears in House battleground California.
- California and New Jersey alone play a massive role in whether the GOP can defend its House majority.
Eight states held primary elections Tuesday, and returns indicate Democrats have a good shot of avoiding their worst fears in battleground California.
The results will play a major role in whether Republicans can defend their congressional majorities and stop Democrats from flipping the 23 seats needed to take the House. Just three of the states that held primaries on Tuesday — California, New Jersey and Iowa — will determine in large part whether Democrats in November can pick up the red seats they need to win a House majority.
California is one of the keys to Democrats' ambitions: The party is targeting as many as 10 Republican-held seats there. The state's primary system, which sends the top two candidates regardless of party to the general election, threatened to dash the party's hopes in some swing districts where several Democrats ran and split the vote.
While NBC News has not yet projected the two general election participants in the California swing districts, early results suggest Democrats could get a candidate into all of their targeted House general elections in the state.
The most populous American state started the process of selecting a new governor, as well. Liberal Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom won the gubernatorial primary, while John Cox, a businessman backed by President Donald Trump, will face off against him.
On the Senate side, Republicans picked a nominee in Montana, one of the GOP's top targets this year. State auditor Matt Rosendale is projected to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, according to NBC. Tester faces re-election in a state Trump won by about 20 points.
Here are some key results from Tuesday's primaries. (Note: As a high proportion of California voters cast absentee ballots, some races may not be decided for a few days).
- Democratic Newsom is projected to win the California gubernatorial primary, according to NBC News. He is running to succeed term-limited Gov. Jerry Brown. Trump-backed Republican Cox will join Newsom in the governor's race in November, NBC said.
- Incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein won California's Senate primary, NBC News projects. The 84-year-old, who has served in the Senate for more than two decades, faces a challenge from the left in state Sen. Kevin de Leon, who will join her in the general election, NBC said.
- Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is projected to prevail in the primary for California's 48th District, according to NBC. The top Democratic target district carries a lockout risk as a GOP challenger to Rohrabacher and multiple Democrats ran. NBC has not yet projected the other winner. However, both top Democrats — businessman Harley Rouda and stem cell researcher Hans Keirstead — appear to have an edge over GOP former state Assemblyman Scott Baugh.
- Former state Assemblywoman Young Kim is projected to win the primary for California's 39th District, according to NBC. Navy veteran and education advocate Gil Cisneros is projected to take the second general election spot, NBC said. Democrats aim to flip the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Ed Royce's retirement. The district also carried a lockout risk for Democrats.
- Democrats will get a candidate through in another GOP-held district they hope to win, the 49th. The party worried it could also get held out of the general election for that seat. Former state Assemblywoman Diane Harkey is projected to win the primary for the seat, according to NBC. While NBC has not projected the other general election participant, it said a Democrat is expected to advance. Clean-energy advocate Mike Levin and former State Department official Sara Jacobs are leading the race for the other spot in the general election. The seat was vacated by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa's retirement.
- Republican Rep. Jeff Denham is projected to come out on top in California's 10th District, a race that is expected to be competitive in November, according to NBC. Early results show Democratic technology investor Josh Harder with a narrow lead for the other general election spot. NBC has not projected the other winner yet.
- GOP Rep. Steve Knight is projected to win the primary for his 25th District, according to NBC. Democrats hope to flip the swing district in November. Democratic former nonprofit executive Katie Hill held a close lead over Democratic lawyer Bryan Caforio for the other spot, though NBC had not projected a winner.
- GOP Rep. Mimi Walters is projected to win the primary for California's 45th District, according to NBC News. It is unclear which Democratic challenger will join her there, though NBC projects one of the party's candidates will make it. Democrats have targeted the district this year.
- The Associated Press called the New Jersey Republican Senate primary for former Celgene CEO Bob Hugin on Tuesday night. Hugin, who has already put $7.5 million of his own money into the race, has drilled into incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez over corruption charges that ended in a mistrial last year. While New Jersey typically favors Democrats, the senator has a tougher task ahead of him than usual after getting reprimanded by bipartisan colleagues for his conduct. AP said Menendez defeated challenger Lisa McCormick, who lacked the resources to mount a serious upset bid.
- National Democrats got their preferred candidates in the key GOP-held districts they hope to flip in New Jersey.
- Former federal prosecutor and Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill easily won the Democratic primary for New Jersey's 11th Congressional District, the AP said. The candidate, backed by former Vice President Joe Biden, will run in an area that leans slightly Republican but is considered a toss-up this year. Democrats got a boost there with the retirement of GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. Sherrill will face state Assemblyman Jay Webber, who held off opponents including businessman Peter de Neufville.
- Centrist state Sen. Jeff Van Drew prevailed in the Democratic primary in the 2nd District, according to the AP. He will try to win in the district vacated by the retirement of Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo. Nonpartisan handicappers believe the race currently leans in favor of Democrats. The AP called the GOP primary for lawyer Seth Grossman on Tuesday night.
- Ex-Obama administration official Tom Malinowski handily won in the 7th District Democratic primary, the AP reported. He will face GOP Rep. Leonard Lance, who easily won his primary Tuesday. The race for the district, which tilts slightly to the right, is considered a toss-up.
- Abby Finkenauer, a state legislator, prevailed in Iowa's 1st District Democratic primary, the AP said. The swing district, currently represented by GOP Rep. Rod Blum, is a top Democratic target in November. Nonpartisan election analysis sites consider it a toss-up.
- In Iowa's 3rd Congressional District, the AP called the Democratic primary for small business owner Cindy Axne. She will face Republican Rep. David Young, who ran unopposed Tuesday. The race for the Republican-leaning district currently favors Young but is expected to be competitive, according to nonpartisan analysis sites.
- If either Finkenauer or Axne win in November, the Democrat would become the first woman to represent Iowa in the House. Republican Joni Ernst represents the state in the Senate.
- Retired businessman Fred Hubbell prevailed in the Democratic primary for governor and will face incumbent Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who ran unopposed Tuesday, according to the AP.
In the closely watched Montana Senate race, vulnerable incumbent Tester ran unopposed among Democrats. On the Republican side, state Auditor Rosendale is projected to defeat former judge Russ Fagg, according to NBC News.
Trump won the state by about 20 percentage points in 2016. The president has repeatedly targeted Tester, in part for his role in the withdrawal of the president's pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, White House physician Ronny Jackson.
Tester has voted with Trump's priorities less often than his Democratic colleagues running for re-election in other red states have. For example, he voted against the confirmations of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
GOP Rep. Martha Roby, running in Alabama's 2nd District primary, failed to garner 50 percent of the vote and was forced into a runoff with ex-congressman Bobby Bright, a former Democrat, the AP said. The runoff will take place in July.
Roby may have taken a hit from her reluctance to support Trump in a state where the president is popular. In 2016, she pulled her endorsement from Trump after the revelation of the "Access Hollywood" tape in which the president bragged about touching women without their consent.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., won his primary, The Associated Press said. He earlier got a boost from Trump, who said the senator "has done everything necessary to Make America Great Again."
"He has my total support," the president wrote in a tweet.
Mississippi last had a Democrat in the Senate in 1989, according to the AP.
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., won a contested primary for governor, according to the AP. If she wins in the red state, she would become the first woman to be its governor. She will face Democratic state Sen. Billie Sutton.
In New Mexico's potentially competitive 2nd District, attorney Xochitl Torres Small won the Democratic primary, according to the AP. State Rep. Yvette Herrell emerged on the GOP side, the AP said.
The seat was vacated by Republican Steve Pearce, a conservative Freedom Caucus congressman who ran unopposed in the GOP gubernatorial primary. He will face Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the gubernatorial race.