Primaries Show Anti-Incumbent Wave May Be Overblown

The old guard will still have to fight hard in November.

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In November, Paul will face state Attorney General Jack Conway, who beat Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo in a tight race for the Democratic nomination.

Though establishment favorites Specter and Grayson are out, two-term incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas may still be able to pull off a win against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in a June 8 run-off for the Democratic Senate nomination. A third candidate, D.C. Morrison, grabbed 13 percent of the votes, blocking either Halter or Lincoln from gaining the majority required to snag the nomination. Halter, who was already well known in Arkansas, has run his campaign to the left of Lincoln, pitching her as too centrist and the enemy of labor, which has strongly supported him. Lincoln, who edged out Halter by 44.3 percent to 42.7 percent, has emphasized her clout among the state's loggers and farmers as the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. [See what organizations donate the most to Lincoln.]

The run-off—which will decide who faces GOP nominee Rep. John Boozman in the fall—could go either way. A major factor is whether each campaign can motivate its voters, and those who voted for Morrison, to make another trip to the polls.

As these two candidates hit the Arkansas campaign trail yet again, they could learn a lesson on good strategy from Democrat Mark Critz's win over GOP-er Tim Burns in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District. The race also bucked the anti-establishment trend; Critz's victory gives hope to both Democrats and those attached to the old guard of Washington.

A longtime aide to the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha—whose southwestern Pennsylvania seat was at stake—Critz could have been written off as just another Washington favorite, yet his locally geared campaign, which focused on job creation and his knowledge of the district, ultimately put him ahead of Burns by an unexpected 8 points. Conversely, according to Pennsylvania political analyst Jon Delano, the Burns campaign tried to capitalize on national discontent with the Democratic Party, running numerous ads linking Critz to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. [See where Pelosi's campaign cash comes from.]

Nobody in the country is eager to side with the establishment these days, but Critz's victory, and perhaps Lincoln's slight edge, could be proof that a connection to Washington isn't necessarily the political death sentence that many had believed it would be.

Still, with their old political bunkers largely torn down by voter discontent nationwide, incumbents and beltway veterans will certainly have to fight the hard fight in the coming months.

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