Primaries to send message about balance of power

May 17, 2010

By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times

All politics may be local, but the results of Tuesday’s primaries will answer some of the biggest national questions this year about the deep anger of “tea party” activists on the right, perturbed progressives on the left, and how much they’ll shake up the established Washington order.

Incumbent Democrats are facing stiff challenges in Senate primaries in Arkansas and Pennsylvania, while Republicans’ establishment-backed candidate trails in Kentucky’s Senate primary to a tea-party-backed insurgent.

Also at stake Tuesday is Democrats’ winning streak in contested special House elections, which stretches all the way back to the beginning of 2008 and spans about a half-dozen contests. Republicans have a chance of winning the Pennsylvania district that was held by Rep. John P. Murtha.

“This is a very difficult district for Democrats, and the polls are showing that it’s neck and neck heading into the final days,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a late fundraising plea on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is trying to boost its candidate, Mark Critz.

Meanwhile, new Republican stars such as Sen. Scott Brown have visited Pennsylvania to campaign for Republican candidate Tim Burns, and outside groups that back the GOP are testing their retooled strategy by airing ads backing Mr. Burns.

But the Senate races are likely to dominate Tuesday’s news.

The two nastiest battles are Democratic contests in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, where establishment-backed incumbent Sens. Arlen Specter and Blanche Lincoln, respectively, are facing tough competition from within their own party — and have even stiffer competition if they make it to the general election.

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