FLORENCE, Ky. — Rand Paul grabbed a microphone, climbed onto a short brick wall and told a gathering crowd of supporters to brace for an Election Day uprising on Tuesday.
“There’s a Tea Party tidal wave coming. It’s already hit Utah and it’s coming to Kentucky,” Mr. Paul said, delivering a confident pep talk here in the closing hours of the Republican primary for a United States Senate seat. “The day of reckoning is coming. We cannot elect the same old politicians without getting the same old mess.”
The discontent among voters has not discriminated by party in this turbulent political year. In Pennsylvania and Arkansas on Sunday, Democratic Senators Arlen Specter and Blanche Lincoln waged last-minute fights ahead of potentially career-ending primaries for each of them on Tuesday, hoping the value of seniority would counter powerful anti-incumbent challenges.
The outcome in these three states will provide lessons that will help frame the debate for the remaining six months of the midterm election season, with Democrats fighting to hold their control of the House and Senate.
Both parties will study the results for evidence of the Tea Party movement’s ability to translate passion into votes. They will gauge the degree to which President Obama, who is backing Mr. Specter and Mrs. Lincoln, is a political liability or benefit to his party. And they will look to see what messages, if any, assuage voter anger and anxiety as politics hurtles toward the fall, the economy still in the shadow of the recession.