This Tuesday’s series of party primaries marks the single biggest day of polling before the midterm elections in November. Thus pundits have wanted to read the tea leaves (no pun intended, as Rand Paul already ran and won his primary in Kentucky) at the bottom of this round’s pot of primaries.
Chris Good of TheAtlantic.com presents a fine rundown of the results, with the nomination of Blanche Lincoln as the Democratic Senatorial candidate perhaps being the biggest surprise, given the resources from other Democrats against her: “This is a tough loss for labor unions, and an unexpected one. The biggest U.S. labor organizations poured over $6 million into this race to try to secure [Bill] Halter as a 59th vote in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, and it looked like a long shot from the start. But Halter had surged ahead of Lincoln in last the three polls prior to Tuesday night (all by Research 2000), and it started to look like he’d win after all. He didn’t, to the dismay of many.”
Many news outlets like CNN point out that the clearest winners of these primaries are female candidates, all of whom either won their party’s nomination outright or forced runoffs in two-weeks’ time. These candidates are from both parties, which also shows a sea change of gender expectations in politics at the national level. The opportunity for Blanche Lincoln to run to keep her Senate seat for Arkansas might prove the weather vein of this fall’s elections: As many pundits point out, the unions spent big in Arkansas to unseat her, but they apparently couldn’t get it done. They certainly will not support her Republican challenger, though. Blanche Lincoln has also sponsored some of the toughest financial-reform statutes in the overall debate about financial reform. Her victory does not mean her proposals will win out (Wall Street does not like her proposals, but neither does the Obama Administration), but her victory might mean the proposals can not be simply swept under the rug. Indeed, the real battle (as is too often the case) will take place amongst the lobbyists and the Congressional staffers long before our representatives will brave the TV cameras.
Finally, incumbents were battered on Tuesday, but precious few actually fell. If there is deep-running anti-incumbent sentiment in the country, it did not force big changes on the biggest primary day of the calendar. Which is not to say the sentiment will not continue to percolate over the next few months and bring such changes in the general election. Those with the most acute party or candidate loyalties tend to participate in primaries, whereas the general elections draw a broader group of the electorate. Whether that broader group might want to ring in some greater changes remains to be seen…