Super Duper Tuesday With Sprinkles: Previewing The Big Primaries

This is the day we’ve been waiting for. By the end of Tuesday night, we’ll know if Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) could still have a job next year, if angry progressives are a threat and if the tea partiers will hand Mitch McConnell a defeat in his home state.

It’s 2010’s first Super Tuesday — and the political landscape could look much different when all is said and done.

Arkansas Senate

The Democrats

The race in one sentence: Progressives hope to school centrist Democrats everywhere by schooling the centrist Sen. Blanche Lincoln with a little help from primary challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

What to watch for: Polls indicate that the best result Halter and his progressive supporters can hope for is a run-off with Lincoln, which would take the hard-fought primary into overtime. So the key factor is how close Halter gets to Lincoln’s total. If she doesn’t cross 50%, the threshold needed to avoid a June 8 runoff election, then Halter’s won a victory of sorts — forcing a primary runoff with an incumbent Senator is no easy feat. But unless he shows the ability to get closer to Lincoln then he has in primary polls so far (they generally show him about 10 points or so behind) than forcing a run-off will likely turn out to be a pyrrhic victory.

Latest Poll: Lincoln 46, Halter 37, D.C. Martin 6 (Research 2000: 400 LVs/MoE 5.0/May 10-12).

The Republicans

The race in once sentence: Republicans think Lincoln’s seat is up for grabs, so everyone and their sister is taking a shot at it.

What to watch for: Rep. John Boozman is the front-runner, and the man most expect to win the nomination in the end. Republicans would love it if that can happen without a run-off, which would give Boozman a nice head start to raise money if the Democrats go three more weeks. But with an eight-candidate field, it would be really be something if Boozman gets his wish and wins the nomination outright. If he does, expect the Republicans to pick up momentum fast.

Latest Poll: Boozman 46, former state Sen. Jim Holt 19, state Sen. Kim Hendren 12, State Sen. Gilbert Baker 6, businessman Curtis Coleman 2 (Research 2000: 400 LVs/MoE 5.0/May 10-12)

General Election Ratings

Cook Report: Toss-up. CQ: Leans Republican. Washington Post: Toss-up

Kentucky Senate

The Republicans

The race in one sentence: When Tea Partiers blow out the birthday candles, this is what they wish for.

What to watch for: Tea Party man of the hour Rand Paul is expected to handily beat secretary of state Trey Grayson for the nomination. The margin of his victory will suggest just how worried establishment Republicans need to be about keeping the angry fringes happy. This is the race where the Tea Party makes its stand (with a little help from Rand’s father, Ron Paul, and his huge national network.)

Latest Poll: Paul 52, Grayson 34, veteran Gurley Martin 4, former state school superintendent John Stephenson 2, former prison official Jon Scribner 1 (PPP(D): 1065 LVs/MoE 3.0/May15-16)

The Democrats

The race in one sentence: So there are, uh, these two other guys who are also running in a contested Kentucky Senate primary.

What to watch for: State Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo (along with three others) have been battling it out for their party’s nomination well below the national radar while the Republican race has raged. No one really knows what’s going to happen — the polls have been close, showing Mongiardo with a slight lead — but one thing is certain: whichever of these guys gets the nod, he faces an uphill climb to November. Polls have shown the Democrats running well behind either potential Republican nominee. On Election night, watch out for some indication of how the Democrats plan to make up ground quickly.

Latest Poll: Mongiardo 39, Conway 36, former Customs agent Darlene Fitzgerald Price 5, doctor John Buckmaster 3 (Research 2000: 400 LVs/MoE 5.0/May 10-12)

General Election Ratings

Cook Report: Toss-up. CQ: Toss-up. Washington Post: Toss-up.

Pennsylvania Senate

The Democrats

The race in one sentence: All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Sen. Arlen Specter together again after the stimulus vote.

What to watch for: This race is a true toss-up, though it’s reached the point where it will be a surprise if Rep. Joe Sestak doesn’t beat Specter in the end. Specter, who switched parties and brought in support from the national Democratic party and the White House to remain politically viable this year, has run aground with few prognosticators willing to call the race for him. The key thing to look for is the margin of victory. If either candidate wins by a decent margin, it’s a sign that whatever it was that was really motivating voters was hidden from view.

Latest Poll: Sestak 42, Specter 41 (Quinnipiac Univ.: 951 LVs/MoE 3.2/May 12-16)

The Republicans

The race in one sentence: Believe in second chances.

What to watch for: Former Club For Growth president Pat Toomey — who almost beat Specter in the 2004 Republican Primary — faces only ceremonial opposition in the race for the Republican nomination. Expect a full-on Toomey landslide here. Pay attention to how he pivots to attack whichever man wins on the Democratic side. Republicans are convinced they can win in Pennsylvania this year, so expect the Toomey campaign to come out swinging.

Latest Poll: Toomey 60, perennial candidate Peg Luksik 9 (Suffolk Univ.: 400 LVs/MoE 4.9/May 11-13)

General Election Ratings

Cook Report: Toss-up. CQ: Toss-up . Washington Post: Toss-up.