Tonight’s Candidates: With Just a Little Help From Their Friends
President Obama’s decision not to campaign for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) ahead of his tough primary tonight has been the subject of media chatter in the last few days. But Specter isn’t the only candidate in tonight’s primaries who has received the hands-off approach from Washington when his polling numbers took a southward turn.
Senate candidate Trey Grayson, Kentucky’s Republican secretary of state, received the early backing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and soon became regarded as the favored GOP candidate to succeed Sen. Jim Bunning (R). The NRSC created a joint fundraising committee with Grayson, Dick Cheney and other GOP figures offered their endorsements, and other lawmakers quickly signed on to support Grayson’s campaign.
But then Grayson began to sink in the polls and GOP anti-Washington candidate Rand Paul, eye doctor and son of Ron Paul, began gaining traction. Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Bunning all came out with endorsements for Paul, and Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson switched his support from Grayson to Paul.
As we head into tonight’s race, Public Policy Polling has Paul leading Grayson by 18 percentage points.
Back in Pennsylvania, Specter has seen his status go from “major coup” for the Democratic party to candidate for whom the party isn’t willing to trot out the top brass. Vice President Joe Biden was actually in Pennsylvania yesterday, but chose not to make a stop for Specter. Barack Obama last appeared with Specter at a rally in September.
Voters in Pennsylvania did see Obama’s image in a campaign commercial this cycle, but the ad used old footage and was financed by Specter’s campaign. When asked about the White House’s involvement in the race, Specter told The Associated Press: “They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
Specter tonight faces Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak; polls show the race is a toss-up.
In Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) is being challenged from the left by Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, and the two appear likely to be forced into a runoff (a candidate must win a majority tonight to avoid a runoff, and there are more than two candidates present in this competitive race.) Though the president did not personally step in to help Lincoln, he did record a robo-call for the senator. Additionally, Lincoln’s party is attempting to protect her legislatively by delaying a vote on her derivatives language.
Polls show Lincoln’s chances of coming out ahead tonight are better than Specter’s and certainly better than Grayson’s, although an outright majority may be out of reach.
Either way, considering the anti-incumbent/anti-Washington mood in the country these days, behind-the-scenes help instead of visible support from Washington may be just what candidates are looking for this cycle.
In other races around the country tonight:
- Pennsylvania 12: The special election to choose a successor to John Murtha will coincide tonight with the state’s regularly scheduled primary. Democrat Mark Critz, a former aide to Murtha, is competing against Republican businessman Tim Burns for the chance both to serve out the remainder of Murtha’s current term and to appear on the November general election ballot to serve out the next full term beginning in January.
- **Kentucky Senate (D): **State Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo are locked in their own competitive primary for the Democratic nomination. Additional Democrats are running. A competitive general election race is expected for this open seat in November.
- Oregon Governor: Voters are choosing candidates for the open gubernatorial race tonight. On the Democratic side, former Gov. John Kitzhaber is the likely leader over former Oregon secretary of state Bill Bradbury. Chris Dudley, a former professional basketball player, is regarded as the top Republican heading into tonight’s race.
- Arkansas Senate (R): Former Rep. John Boozman is expected to place first in tonight’s GOP primary, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be able to avoid a runoff. Former state Sen. Jim Holt appears likely to come in second in the GOP race.