Senate at Stake: The Three Big Primaries Tomorrow

Tuesday, June 8 is one of the biggest days in politics this cycle with primary elections in 11 states: California, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and Arkansas, which hosts a primary runoff. In three of these states--Arkansas, California and Nevada—voters are choosing contenders for crucial seats in the US Senate, and one incumbent is fighting for her job.

Arkansas Democratic Primary: Bill Halter vs. Sen. Blanche Lincoln

This race will likely receive the most attention tomorrow. In the May 18 primary, Lincoln managed to get more votes than Halter, picking up 44.5 percent to his 42.5 percent. Thanks to DC Morrison’s surprisingly strong third-place showing with 13 percent, no candidate was able to secure the 50 percent plus one needed to win in the first round. In accordance with Arkansas election laws, this dictates a runoff between the top-two vote getters. On the Republican side, John Boozman got 53 percent, so he does not face a runoff.

This race is about more than just which Democrat will run in the general election. The contest between Halter and Lincoln has important overtones of accountability, the direction of the party, the power of the grassroots and populist, anti-Washington anger.

National labor unions and progressive organizations (including some associated with FDL) have rallied behind Halter and provided millions of dollars to oppose Lincoln. Their backing has less to do with Halter's rather standard Democratic positions and more to do with an intense dislike of Lincoln, who flip-flopped on, and then helped to kill, the public option for health care.

As the incumbent, Lincoln has the backing of President Obama, the national party establishment and former President Bill Clinton. A mysterious group has also spent at least $1.5 million on ads on her behalf.

The latest Dailykos/Research 2000 poll shows Halter with a small lead over Lincoln.

Dailykos/Research 2000 (6/2-4)
Halter 49%
Lincoln 45%

The race is still very close and could be decided by each campaign’s ability to turn out supporters, which makes the strange mass closing of polling locations so critical. Also, there are Democratic Congressional primary runoffs in the 1st and 2nd districts, which may help increase turnout in areas where Lincoln did well in May.

If Halter wins, it will make for an almost-unprecedented three sitting Senators losing their party’s nod this cycle. The other two are Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Arlen Specter (D-PA).

Nevada Republican Primary: Sue Lowden, Sharron Angle, Danny Tarkanian

Senate Majority Leader and Democratic Nevada Sen. Harry Reid is viewed as one of the most vulnerable incumbents this year, heating up the Republican primary to see who will take him on in the general election.

Early on, establishment candidate and former Nevada GOP chairwoman Sue Lowden was the favorite, but she has fallen due to a series of stumbles including “chickens for check-ups” and a possible violation of campaign finance law related to a donated RV. Her fall has been Sharron Angle’s gain. Angle is the very conservative Tea Party candidate and has the backing of the Club for Growth. While she has improved significantly in the polls in the final weeks, the contest is still a legitimate three-way race among Angle, Lowden and Danny Tarkanian. Primaries are tough to poll, and it’s possible that anti-Angle voters, seeing Lowden weaken, may move to Tarkanian.

Mason-Dixon (6/1-3)
Angle 32%
Tarkanian 24%
Lowden 23%

Suffolk (6/1-2)
Angle 32%
Tarkanian 25%
Lowden 24%

California Republican Primary: Carly Fiorina, Tom Campbell, Chuck DeVore

This race to take on Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the general election is a perfect demonstration of how crucial a big war chest is in a hugely expensive media market. Tom Campbell was once the front-runner but was unable to keep up with Fiorina's spending. As the former CEO of HP, Fiorina is able to draw on her vast personal fortune to fund her campaign. Recent polling shows Fiorina with a strong lead.

Field (5/27-6/2)
Fiorina 37%
Campbell 22%
DeVore 19%

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