Mini-Super Tuesday Preview

votingVoters in four states — Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oregon — are heading to the polls today:

WASHINGTON – Democrats Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas struggled uncertainly for nomination to new Senate terms Tuesday and tea party activists clashed with the Republican hierarchy in Kentucky in primaries testing anti-establishment anger in both political parties.

In a fourth race with national implications, Republican Tim Burns and Democrat Mark Critz vied to fill out the final few months in the term of the late Rep. John Murtha in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Each political party invested some $1 million to prevail for that House seat and said the race to succeed the longtime Democratic lawmaker was something of a bellwether for the fall.

Rounding out the busiest night of the primary season to date, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden in Oregon faced little opposition in his campaign for nomination to a third full term.

Voters in Pennsylvania and Oregon also selected gubernatorial candidates.

The far-flung races took place a little less than five months before midterm elections in which Republicans will challenge Democrats for control of both houses of Congress. President Barack Obama backed incumbents in his party’s races, but despite the stakes for his legislative agenda the White House insisted he was not following the results very closely.

Here’s where the races-to-watch stood when campaigning ended last night

  • Kentucky Senate GOP  Primary —- Of all the races on the ballot today, the one that seemed the most improbable a year ago is now probably the easiest to call. Rand Paul, a Lexington doctor and the son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, has been leading Trey Grayson in the polls for months, and the final round of polling would seem to suggest a massive win for Paul, who has never run for office before and choose to run against a well-known state officeholder. On the Republican side, this looks to be a clear win for Paul unless we’ve witnessed one of the most inaccurate rounds of polling in modern political history.
  • Kentucky Senate Democratic Primary — Democrats in the Bluegrass State have a primary today as well, but it hasn’t gotten nearly the amount of attention as the Republican race. In that race, two state office holders, Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo and Attorney General Jack Conway, have battled it out in a race that still remains close enough that either candidate could win. To date, Rand Paul holds a lead in head-to-head polling against either of his potential opponents.
  • Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Primary — After a late surge by Congressman Joe Sestak, this race is officially too close to call. In the end, the outcome is going to depend on whether or not Arlen Specter will be able to bring out the Philadelphia/Harrisburg/Pittsburgh voters that have saved him in the past. With reports this morning that rain was holding down turnout in some areas that have typically been heavy Specter voting areas, that’s not certain by any means.
  • Pennsylvania 12th CD Special Election — In the race to replace Congressman John Murtha, Republican Tim Burns has managed to pull within the margin of error against Bill Critz. Since it’s the only race where a Democrat and Republican are actually facing each other today, the Democrats are hoping that it becomes a sign that the GOP doesn’t have the momentum going in to November that many have thought. As with the Senate race, the outcome here will likely depend upon turnout, and it’s worth noting that, regardless of the result, these two candidates are likely to meet again in November.
  • Arkansas Senate Democratic Primary — For a time it appeared as if Lt. Governor Bill Halter had a good chance of defeating Senator Blanche Lincoln with a run to her left. After reaching 37% in the polls, though, Halter seemed to peak. Now, the only real question is whether Lincoln will be able to garner the 50% of the vote required to avoid a runoff. If she doesn’t you can rest assured that the runoff campaign will be dominated by frequent appearances on her behalf around the state by Bill Clinton. In the end, I think Lincoln will defeat Halter, it just may take more than one election to do it

I’ll be back when it’s all over with a wrap-up and analysis.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook