Tomorrow is primary day in Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Three of the states have significant intraparty primaries that feature an establishment candidate facing an insurgent candidate, and the outcomes of these races will be a good test of the depth of anti-incumbent sentiment:
Arkansas Senate (Democratic Primary) – Two term Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln is in a tough fight against Lt Governor Bill Halter. Her poll ratings have remained remarkably steady in the 44-46% range since March, while Halter’s labor and progressive group funding has made him electorally viable, and his poll numbers have gradually climbed into the upper 30s. A third candidate, businessman D.C. Morrison, is running as a conservative and will likely force a June 8 runoff.
Kentucky Senate (Republican Primary)– This has become one of several “David vs Goliath” races we are watching. Early GOP establishment favorite Secretary of State Trey Grayson has seen his electoral prospects fade against the insurgent campaign of Dr. Rand Paul, despite the assistance of fellow Kentuckian and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Paul has more than matched this “Goliath” endorsement with endorsements from Kentucky’s other (retiring) Republican Senator Jim Bunning, Sarah Palin, James Dobson, and various Tea Party chapters. Recent polls show an average Paul lead of 48-34%, and Grayson has in the 11th hour come out with a withering attack against Dr. Paul, referring to him as a “grand-standing leader who will struggle in the general election because his views are out of the mainstream with Kentucky voters….”
Pennsylvania Senate (Democratic Primary) – This primary battle pits 30 year incumbent (and former Republican and former Democrat before that) Arlen Specter against Congressman Joe Sestak and has remained a nail biter ever since Rep. Sestak played the “Republican card” in ads two weeks ago. Both candidates have remained at 45% of the vote in tracking polls, which for an incumbent is not a good sign. In fact, the White House today has declined to make a final appearance on Specter’s behalf, because as one Obama aide said “…..It’s hard to see how he (Specter) pulls this thing out….Public and private tracking [polls] are all running away from him.”
Pennsylvania Special House Election– The special election to replace the late John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) for the remainder of his term has been neck and neck for some time. However, a last minute poll conducted May 15-16 of 831 likely voters from Public Policy Polling reveals some interesting information. Overall, Republican Tim Burns leads 48-47% (compared to a 44-41% Burns lead from the same poll conducted a month ago). The poll’s internals, however, tell an interesting story:
- Obama 35% approval (55% disapproval);
- Healthcare reform 30% approval (58% disapproval);
- By a 44-43% margin, voters do NOT want to see the next Congressman carry on John Murtha’s legacy;
- 41% are very excited about voting;
- In a district that voted 49-49% for McCain, 51-49% for Democrat John Kerry, and 55-44% for Al Gore in 2000, 47% of McCain voters are “very excited”, while 38% of Obama voters are similarly motivated. And among the “very excited”, the Republican Burns leads 60-38%.
Pennsylvania Congressional Democratic Primaries – In the wake of 28 year Democrat incumbent Alan Mollohan’s 56-44% defeat last week, we are watching two Democratic Pennsylvania incumbents. The first is 18 year incumbent Tim Holden, who is in some trouble with liberal activists in this 51% McCain district for voting against healthcare reform and “cap and trade.” The second is 26 year incumbent Paul Kanjorski, who despite his nearly perfect Democratic voting record barely eked out a 52-48% victory against a Republican last year in a district that gave Barack Obama 57% of the vote.