The main theme from last night is the continuation of the anti-incumbent trend. But it’s also true, I think, that the Democrats got the better of the evening.
First, Democrat Mark Critz held Pennsylvania 12 for the Democrats, defeating Republican Tim Burns. His victory wasn’t pretty; Critz captured only 53 of the vote in a heavily Democratic district. But this was a seat Republicans thought they had a decent shot at, and they didn’t pick it up. Critz and Burns will face off again in the fall.
Second, Joe Sestak defeated Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary. Dems should be happy to have nominated a real Democrat, not a rank opportunist who has been a Republican most of his life. Moreover, Sestak probably has a better chance than Specter did of defeating Republican Pat Toomey.
Third, the Republicans nominated Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, to run for the Senate in Kentucky. I don’t know enough about the landscape in Kentucky to say that Paul will be a weaker candidate in the general election than the man (Trey Grayson) he routed last night. But the Dems have some basis for hoping that Paul, a novice at running for office who seems to hold at least some of his father’s unorthodox views, can be beaten — even in a conservative state in a good year for Republicans.
The worst news for Dems may have been the fact that neither Blanche Lincoln nor Bill Halter was able to win the Senate nomination in Arkansas. Instead, the two will participate in a run-off. That’s due in part to third candidate D.C. Morrison, whose strong showing (about 14 percent of the vote) suggests that neither Lincoln nor Halter is a very strong candidate.
The run-off will probably weaken whichever candidate survives it. And at the end of the day, the Dems will be stuck with either an unpopular incumbent who squeaked through or a candidate who can probably be painted as too far left for Arkansas.
UPDATE: Michael Barone offers his top five lessons from yesterday’s elections.
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