The 6 Races to Watch Today
As 20 percent of Americans head to the polls, The Daily Beast reveals why it doesn’t matter if Bill Halter beats Lincoln in Arkansas, how Israel could tip California's Senate race, and what it might mean to have two Reids on the Nevada ballot in November.
Will Tea Party victory help Harry Reid?
Going into primary day, Sharron Angle has pulled ahead of a tight Republican field, vying to become the party’s challenger to Harry Reid in the fall. (But the number of undecided voters makes the victor difficult to predict, one pollster says.) An Angle victory may prove just the kind of boost the Senate Majority Leader needs to keep his seat. His approval ratings are at a basement-level 40 percent in Nevada. The prospect of the Tea Party candidate bringing her ideological baggage into the general election even has conservatives worried about a Rand Paul-like crackup. “Sharron Angle will be painted as a nut,” National Review’s Jim Geraghty has predicted. Angle has suggested that she merely tolerates the legality of beer. She’s supported a drug-rehab program with ties to Scientology and has been accused of a number of campaign-finance violations. Oh and forget about that little oil spill: Angle would rid us of the Energy Department and EPA. All in all, the Democrats think they’ve found just the kind of candidate that can make Reid’s reelection a real possibility.
Joe Mathews: Palin Is California’s Queenmaker
• Benjamin Sarlin: Will the Anti-Incumbent Revolt Claim Another Senator?California
How did the Gaza flotilla reach the Pacific?
The battle for California has opened up a surprising front. There’s plenty up for debate in a state that has seen spiraling deficits, a crippled legislature, and 13 percent unemployment. But then a flotilla set off for Gaza, turning the final days of the California Republican Senate primary into a contest of who could show greater fealty to the Israelis. “Let us say this unequivocally and unashamedly and emphatically: What Israel did to the Gaza flotilla was right, it was legal, and it was moral," state assemblyman Chuck Devore told a pro-Israel rally. Meanwhile, his opponent, Carly Fiorina—the likely victor on Tuesday—attended a dinner for the Republican Jewish Coalition Sunday and told The Sacramento Bee: "I am appalled by the condemnation of that action, Israel’s trying to protect itself, having given the flotilla many, many warnings.” The Mediterranean flavor to the race suggests just how suddenly the narrative can change. In the race between these California Republican Amazons (as The Daily Beast’s Tunku Varadarajan has dubbed them), Fiorina may have the best chance of turning a blue seat red in her possible face-off with Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Forget Bill Halter, have you met John Boozman?
All the chatter going into Tuesday’s Democratic Senate primary surrounds Sen. Blanche Lincoln and whether she will become the fifth Washington incumbent to be felled in a primary this election season. Lincoln has been engaged in a brutal contest with Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, who has raised millions of dollars on the backs of labor and other progressive groups hoping for a more liberal figure to fill Lincoln’s seat. Yet no matter who wins on Tuesday, the victor will face an uphill battle against Republican Congressman John Boozman. The 59-year-old former optometrist is likely to become the first Republican to hold the seat since Reconstruction. All polling this spring has shown Boozman with a sizable lead over both Halter and Lincoln.
Can Haley survive the attacks?
If you’ve heard Nikki Haley’s name lately, it’s because of the rumors emanating from South Carolina about the state rep’s alleged liaisons with two Republican activists, neither one of whom is her husband. But Haley seems to have stayed out of danger—so far. It looks like she’ll win Tuesday’s primary handily. She is up 20 points going into voting day. A win could open a fresh chapter in political history, in which a woman was able to withstand a sex scandal of her own. Some, like The Daily Beast’s Dana Goldstein, call that progress. Could trouble still be on the horizon? There’s a lot of time between now and November. “The Republican Party in South Carolina is not a political party,” one local Democratic wag tells us. “It’s a toga party.”
Will clarity come to a murky field?
Maine’s race to succeed term-limited Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, should deliver some much needed clarity on Tuesday, as Democrats and Republican voters cut down massive primary fields. The Republican field has seven candidates. The Democrats will have four. Going into polls, 50 percent of Maine voters were telling pollsters that they had yet to make up their minds. The two candidates expected to fare best in their respected free-for-alls are Democrat Libby Mitchell, the state senate president, and Republican Les Otten, who has poured $2.2 million into his campaign so far. Those looking for signs of a third-party option have independent candidate Eliot Cutler. Thanks to Maine’s quirky political past, and Cutler’s legitimate political bona fides, he’s as likely to win the governor’s mansion as anyone else at this point.
Will having two Reids help?
When Nevadans go to the polls in November, they will almost definitely have the chance to pull the lever for two Reids. Harry Reid, the most powerful man in the Senate, is trying to hold on to his seat. Rory Reid, projected to win Tuesday’s Democratic primary, is aiming to take on whichever Republican replaces Gov. Jim Gibbons on the ballot. Last week, the
embattled Gibbons said he already was prepared to lose his party’s primary (“I’m going to celebrate even if I don’t win the primary,” Gibbons told reporters). Reid fils is the Clark County Commission chairman and
Samuel P. Jacobs is a staff reporter at The Daily Beast. He has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Observer, and The New Republic Online.