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Last week's elections in Wisconsin and California spelled success for the Republican Party.  Michael Barone explains why:

We pundits have been busy crunching the results in last Tuesday's Wisconsin recall election and have noted that the public-employee unions sustained a huge defeat.

Some have also looked west, to California, where San Diego and San Jose voters Tuesday voted 66 and 69 percent to cut back public-employee pensions. Those cities voted 63 and 69 percent for Barack Obama in 2008.

But there's something else worth noting in the California returns. State voters adopted a new primary procedure, in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, go on to the general election.

Washington state had a similar primary system in the 1990s, and the primary results tended to be replicated in November. For example, the 1994 primary results enabled some to forecast that Democrats would lose six of nine House seats in November.

So it may be revealing to compare the total primary vote for the House in California with the total House vote in previous elections. Statewide, 53 percent of the votes were cast for Democrats and 43 percent for Republicans. That may understate Republicans' strength, since they left eight seats uncontested and Democrats only one.

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