In Pennsylvania, retired admiral and current Representative Joe Sestak won the Democratic primary against former Republican Arlen Specter; Sestak will face failed Senate candidate Pat Toomey in November. In Kentucky, Jack Conway will be running for the Senate seat currently held by Jim Bunning. Rand Paul, whose claim to fame is absolutely not being named after Ayn Rand, defeated Trey Grayson, who had been hand-picked to replace Senator Bunning by fellow Kentuckian Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff in her primary campaign against Arkansas’ lieutenant governor Bill Halter.
In those races with competitive primaries for both parties, more Democrats turned out, even in the teabagger-dominated Paul/Grayson race. kos summarizes the night:
And of course, we got the strongest general election candidate (and most progressive Dems) in Pennsylvania and Kentucky. And best of all, I’m not seeing an intensity gap. We can number crunch tomorrow, but so far, this has been a spectacular night for us.
Hey, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve seen tonight.
Andrea Mitchell seems positively glum [about Arlen Specter's loss] and both she and Chuck Todd and Howard Fineman all seem to think it somehow speaks badly for the White House and Democratic prospects in the fall. I couldn’t disagree more. On the other hand, Rachel Maddow seems positively ebullient about it…
I am also happy to see the seeming win by Jack Conway in Kentucky and his match up with Rand Paul, who absolutely crushed Mitch McConnell’s boy in the Republican primary. I also really like the overall Democratic vote in the state — nearly 450,000 votes cast in the primary versus only 330,000 in the Republican primary, I can’t help but wonder if this doesn’t portend far greater enthusiasm among Democrats than has thus far been thought to exist.
…at a minimum Lincoln will have gotten the scare of her political life and I can’t believe that that’s a bad thing. Once again 160,000 votes in the Democratic primary versus 54,000 in the Republican primary. …
Lastly, the Democrats comfortably held on to John Murtha’s seat. … I am pretty happy to see a 7 point win in a district that McCain carried in 2008 — the only Kerry district that Obama lost in the entire country. I can’t believe that this bodes well for the Republicans and I think might expose their spring time crowing about the fall elections to be much mistaken. This may be the most significant of all of the races oddly enough.
It’s hard to read these results as a referendum on the President or on grand national politics. These races were by and large not nationalized in a way that lets them be linked into some grand narrative. Conservative Republicans won and liberal Democrats won. People don’t like incumbents, it seems, but they haven’t necessarily decided who they want instead of the incumbents. The fact that there isn’t evidence of a wave building against policies of the administration or the current Congress is certainly good news, and should help the sluggish Senate take up the nation’s business with a bit more alacrity. The people who are angry are not angry about what Congress is doing, but what they have left undone.