Angry voters hammer establishment candidates 

Prepare for the wrath of the angry voter.

That's what all signs point to in Tuesday's hotly contested Senate primaries in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Kentucky, where public backlash against Washington could doom incumbents and politically connected candidates, regardless of their party affiliation.

"It's less certain what voters are actually for, but clearly they are not happy with the status quo," said Scott Lasley, a political science professor at Western Kentucky University.

In Kentucky, Republicans are feeling the backlash, with the GOP's anointed Senate candidate, Trey Grayson, projected to get a thrashing by Tea Party-backed candidate Rand Paul.

Grayson has the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as former Vice President Cheney. But those endorsements are proving no match for Paul's grass-roots, anti-Washington bid, backed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"The Republican Party in this state is getting stood on its head," longtime Kentucky Democratic political consultant Dale Emmons said.

Perhaps the most endangered incumbent is Sen. Arlen Specter, who is running even with Rep. Joe Sestak in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary despite party backing and campaign ads starring President Obama.

 

Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary

 

>>Rep. Joe Sestak is challenging incumbent Arlen Specter, who is seeking a sixth term.

 

>>Specter switched parties a year ago to avoid losing to Republican Pat Toomey in the GOP primary.

 

>>Specter enjoyed a 21-point lead a month ago but he is now in a dead heat with Sestak, who is campaigning as an outsider who can change a broken Washington.

 

>>Sestak is a retired three-star Navy admiral and is liberal compared with centrist Specter.

 

>>Specter has accused Sestak of having a poor attendance record in Congress and said he was let go from his Navy job "for creating a poor command climate," which Sestak denies.

 

Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary

 

>>Pat Toomey is expected to easily prevail over conservative grass-roots activist Peg Luksik.

 

>>Toomey represented eastern Pennsylvania's 15th District in the U.S House from 1999 to 2006.

 

>>A Franklin and Marshall College Poll last week showed Toomey leading, 28 percent to 1 percent, with 69 percent undecided.

 

Kentucky Republican Senate primary

 

>>Opthamologist Rand Paul, backed by Tea Party activists, faces Trey Grayson, the GOP establishment's choice.

 

>>Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Paul up by 18 points over Grayson.

 

>>The same poll found that 69 percent of primary voters "approve" the goals of the Tea Party movement.

 

>>A Paul victory could serve as a repudiation of Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who backs Grayson.

 

>>Rand is the son of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.

 

Kentucky Democratic Senate primary

 

>>Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo is running against Attorney General Jack Conway.

 

>>Mongiardo, who nearly beat Republican Sen. Jim Bunning in 2004, leads in most polls, but Conway has been closing of late.

 

>>Mongiardo is backed by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

 

Arkansas Democratic Senate primary

 

>>Incumbent Blanche Lincoln faces off against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and D.C. Morrison.

 

>>Morrison holds just a fraction of voter support but it could be enough to keep either Lincoln or Halter from winning 50 percent, which would then trigger a runoff between the two.

 

>>Halter is backed by the unions, who Lincoln angered by changing her position to oppose a bill that would make it much easier for workers to unionize.

 

>>Lincoln is touting her role as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

 

Arkansas Republican Senate primary

 

>>Rep. John Boozman has a comfortable lead over seven other GOP candidates on the ballot, but with so many candidates, a runoff will likely be needed between Boozman and the No. 2 vote getter.

 

>>The other candidates include former state Sen. Jim Holt, businessman Curtis Coleman, Tea Party-backed candidate Randy Alexander and state Sen. Gilbert Baker.

 

>>Boozman has the advantage of greater name recognition and he represents the northwest part of the state, the base of the Arkansas Republican Party.

 

Sestak, who Democratic officials once predicted would barely crack double-digit support in the polls, is now poised to win in part because voters are disgusted with Specter's switch from Republican to Democrat, especially since he admitted he was making the move to avoid losing his bid for a sixth term.

Sestak has portrayed himself an outsider, despite his nearly four years in Congress representing the state's 7th District outside Philadelphia.

"Arlen Specter is the ultimate poster child for long term, inside-the-Beltway, Washington politics," said Chris Borick, associate professor of political science at Pennsylvania's Muhlenberg College.

Voter discontent is also dominating the Democratic Senate primary in Arkansas, where incumbent Blanche Lincoln has a long and difficult road ahead of her to win election to a third term, despite help from the Obama and the Democratic establishment.

She must first prevail in a three-way primary on Tuesday. While Lincoln is leading in the polls, there is a significant possibility that she will not win the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. And she is already trailing Rep. John Boozman, the likely Republican nominee, in polls.

Lincoln's top Democratic challenger is Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter with Lincoln touting her populist proposal to regulate derivative trading and Halter emphasizing Lincoln's decision to move her family to Washington.

"Both of these candidates are really kind of competing for the populist mantle in terms of who is fighting for the people and who is the true Arkansan," said University of Arkansas political science professor Andrew Dowdle.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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