The political establishment of both the Republican and Democratic parties will be tested on Tuesday when voters head to the polls in four states: Pennsylvania, Oregon, Kentucky and Arkansas.
Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah earlier this month became the first incumbent senator to lose his party’s nomination, and now the Democrats are facing the possibility of losing an incumbent or two of their own, especially Sen. Arlen Specter, who is fighting for his political life in Pennsylvania.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday declared the Pennsylvania Senate race between Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak too close to call, with Sestak polling at 42 percent of likely primary voters to Specter’s 41 percent.
Last year Specter left the Republican Party after 44 years to become a Democrat, and he took to the airwaves Sunday to defend his party switch decision. “For years, I’ve tried to moderate the Republican Party,” Specter said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “And when the stimulus came up and President Obama asked me for his support — for my support, and it looked like we were sliding into a 1929 depression, I sided with President Obama.”
He added: “It wasn’t my job to be saved. It was the jobs of thousands of Pennsylvanians and Americans.”
The victor of that Democratic primary will face a tough race against Republican Pat Toomey.
Here are other top races to keep an eye on:
• The Arkansas Democratic primary between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. A poll earlier this month showed Lincoln at 46 percent, and Halter at 37 percent. A candidate has to broach 50 percent to avoid a run-off. Halter is running to Lincoln’s left, picking up the support of unions disenchanted with the senator’s position on card check and liberals who didn’t see her as strong enough during the health-care debate.
The winner in November will likely face Republican Rep. John Boozman, who polls show to be leading the eight Republicans in the race. He, too, will have to receive more than 50 percent of the vote in order to avoid a run-off, likely from former state Sen. Jim Holt or state Sen. Gilbert Baker.
• The Kentucky Republican primary between Dr. Rand Paul and Trey Grayson. Polls have shown that Paul, a favorite of the Tea Party, has a double-digit lead. A May 15 Poll shows Paul besting Grayson, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s hand-picked candidate, 52 percent to 34 percent.
Paul defined the race during an interview with The Daily Caller last week as “outsider versus the establishment.” In Florida, he argued, “the establishment thought it would be easier to elect a moderate, so they picked Crist even though he was buddying up to Obama on the stimulus package. And it didn’t work. They picked Bennett out in Utah and it didn’t work,” he continued.
“They picked my opponent, and I don’t think it’s gonna work here in Kentucky either.”
• The Pennsylvania special election for the House seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Jack Murtha, between Democrat Mark Critz and Republican Tim Burns. Polls show a close race, with Burns pulling in 48 percent to Critz’s 47 percent, in a recent poll.
Critz, a former Murtha staffer, had Murtha’s wife, Joyce, and former President Bill Clinton stump for him at a weekend rally. Burns is hoping to score the long-time Democratic seat for GOPers. Tuesday’s special election is only to fill the last eight months of Murtha’s unexpired term. Both candidates will face each other again in November, though one will be an incumbent by then.