If you thought the May 18 primaries were big, just wait until you get a load of June 8th's. We're talking six senate primaries, six gubernatorial races, and a whopping 96 House primaries—and that doesn't even count the key runoff election in Arkansas. By Tuesday night, we'll know a lot more about what—and who—to expect in November. Will more longtime incumbents go down in flames? Will Tea Partiers continue to push out GOP moderates? Will the unions claim their first major scalp of the election cycle? Here's your guide to June's biggest election night.
The Top Three
These are the races that are most likely to dominate Wednesday morning's headlines. If you have limited time for politics on Tuesday, pay attention to these races:
The Race: Arkansas Democratic Senate primary runoff
The Lowdown: Incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln barely squeaked by challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the May 18 primary, forcing the two into a runoff. The race has been one of the most expensive and bitterly contested showdowns in state history. Labor unions and liberal groups have continued their all-hands-on-deck campaign against Lincoln, angry with her failure to support a measure that would make it easier for unions to organize, as well as her vote against the health care reconciliation bill. In the wake of the BP oil spill, environmental groups have also piled on, slamming Lincoln for taking more money from oil and gas companies than any other senator. In response, the Chamber of Commerce and Democratic heavyweights such as Bill Clinton have leaped to Lincoln's defense in the final days.
The Polls: Halter holds a narrow lead of 49 percent to 45 percent over Lincoln. Though it's close, Halter's the one with the momentum, having overtaken Lincoln since she grabbed 44.5 percent of the vote to Halter's 42.5 percent last month.
The Stakes: If Lincoln falls, she'll be the third Senate incumbent to lose a primary this year, following Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah). The race is a huge test for labor and the national progressive groups that have poured millions into the contest. If Halter triumphs, it will send a warning sign to other moderate and conservative candidates that come into their crosshairs.
Our Pick: It's close, but we predict Halter by a hair, as the polls and enthusiasm have been trending in his direction in the final weeks of a long, bloody battle.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) | Lauren Victoria Burke/WDCPIX.COM.
2. The Tea Party Candidate Democrats Are Cheering For
The Race: Nevada Senate Republican primary
The Lowdown: Former Nevada GOP chairwoman Sue Lowden dominated the race until the final month, when Tea Party-endorsed, dark-horse candidate Sharron Angle surged in the polls. Her rise partly due to incumbent Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who unleashed a barrage of ads bashing Lowden.
The Polls: Most recent polling shows Angle leading Lowden by 11 points and the other GOP candidate, Danny Tarkanian, by nine points.
The Stakes: The winner faces Reid, who has no primary opponent but is largely unpopular in his home state. While conservatives love Angle, the GOP establishment worries whether she can win over moderate Nevada voters. Reid's campaign, meanwhile, loves their odds against Angle (hence the primary ads slamming Lowden) in the fall election.
Our Pick: Angle continues her late-round surge in the primary, topping Lowden and Tarkanian by single digits.
3. Tidal Waves Can't Save the World from Carlyfornication
The Race: California Senate Republican primary
The Lowdown: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is using her huge financial advantage to crush challenges from Tea Partier Chuck DeVore and former Rep. Tom Campbell.
The Polls: It was closer before, but Fiorina's now leading the race by double digits.
The Stakes: Fiorina is the national GOP's pick, mostly because she can self-fund, and running political advertising in California is incredibly expensive. If Fiorina wins, she'll face incumbent Dem Sen. Barbara Boxer in the fall in what's sure to be a nasty fight. If she loses, it will be a massive upset. Campbell has a moderate reputation and doesn't have the CEO baggage, so he might actually have a better chance in the general. DeVore still thinks he has a shot, too. But both of them had trouble competing with Fiorina's immense war chest. Anyway, read Mother Jones' Tim Murphy for more on why DeVore, a Tea Party candidate in a Tea Party year, is having trouble.
Nick Baumann covers national politics and civil liberties issues for
Mother Jones' DC Bureau. For more of his stories, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. RSS | Twitter