Mini Super-Tuesday a Preview Of Coming Attractions

VotePrimary elections in four states next Tuesday promise to give us a fairly good indication of just how deeply the anti-incumbent, anti-Washington feelings are and what we might see come November:

Never mind Rep. Alan Mollohan’s (D-W.V.) primary defeat Tuesday. Avert your gaze from Sen. Bob Bennett’s (R-Utah) loss last Saturday. The biggest and most consequential elections don’t take place until next week, May 18, a date that ranks as the most important of the election calendar so far.

Just four states — Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon and Pennsylvania — will go to the polls that day, but the ballot will be packed with marquee elections that will provide the broadest and most detailed data to date about the toxicity of the political environment and the intensity of anti-establishment fury.


In Pennsylvania, Rep. Joe Sestak’s challenge to Specter will test the clout of the state and national Democratic establishment, both of which have created a unified front for the party-switching incumbent. The results will have implications for Colorado’s Democratic Senate primary, in which a similar dynamic is at work in appointed Sen. Michael Bennet’s bid for a full term.

In Arkansas, organized labor’s scorched-earth campaign against Lincoln is already sending a powerful message to wayward Democrats, but it will be far more persuasive to other members of Congress if Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, the challenger backed by labor and progressives, is actually able to knock off the incumbent.

As I noted yesterday, recent polls have shown that Specter is in serious trouble of losing his primary fight with Joe Sestak. In Arkansas, meanwhile, Blanche Lincoln continues to lead in the polls, but she’s fallen below 50%, which is typically not good news for an incumbent. In both cases, the General Election polls show the presumptive Republican candidate leading either of the two Democratic challengers.

On the Republican side, the most interesting race is in Kentucky, where an anti-establishment candidate continues to maintain a seemingly insurmountable lead over the Kentucky Secretary of State:

On the Republican side, where Kentucky will be the scene of a Senate primary between tea party-backed candidate Rand Paul and Republican establishment favorite Trey Grayson, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn acknowledged that Tuesday represents a significant election-year milepost but said he’s already looking beyond it to November.


To the conservative grass roots, however, it does matter. Kentucky represents the first actual Senate ballot test in which the two forces — the GOP establishment and the conservative grass roots — will collide. While conservatives claimed a moral victory when establishment-backed Gov. Charlie Crist left the Republican Party to run for Florida’s open Senate seat as an independent, it’s unclear how conservative and tea party activists would respond should one of their top candidates lose.

The Paul-Grayson race has been fairly interesting to watch, if only because of the manner in which it’s laid bare the differences between the establishment GOP and the Tea Party-influenced wing of the party. Grayson has received support from Washington Republicans like Dick Cheney and Mitch McConnell while Paul has garnered the support of Jim DeMint, as well as the retiring Jim Bunning, who the two candidates are hoping to replace. Most recently, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson took the unusual step of switching his endorsement from Grayson to Paul after revealing that an unnamed party, later identified as Mitch McConnell, had been misleading Dobson about Paul’s views on abortion. If the most recent polls are any indication, you can expect Paul to win easily next Tuesday.

Next Tuesday will also see primaries in Oregon, and a special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of John Murtha in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District that has been far more competitive than anyone expected.

By the end of the night on Tuesday, we should have a fairly good idea of just how revolutionary the 2010 Mid-Terms are likely to be.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Steve Plunk says:

    Oregon’s primary is ho hum. Nothing new, nothing exciting. The polls show pretty obvious results coming with the real battles to take place in the fall.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    On the other hand, note that in Nebraska, the tea party challenger got 1/3 vote and the incumbent had 2/3 vote.