May 19th, 2010
01:41 PM ET
4 years ago

Analysis: Open season on political incumbents

Sen. Arlen Specter was defeated Tuesday night by Rep. Joe Sestak.
Sen. Arlen Specter was defeated Tuesday night by Rep. Joe Sestak.

Washington (CNN) – So much for political kingmakers and the machine, at least in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. National and statewide political officials and operatives watched their chosen candidates fall Tuesday in two separate primaries with two different narratives weaved together by the common thread of anti-establishment sentiment.

Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania saw his 30-year career in the Senate come to an abrupt end at the hands of Rep. Joe Sestak despite being endorsed by President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and just about every big-name Democrat.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell failed in his attempt to crown Secretary of State Trey Grayson the GOP Senate nominee in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Jim Bunning. Grayson lost in a landslide to Rand Paul, whose campaign was fueled by Tea Party activists.

Meanwhile in Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln failed to beat back a challenge from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and will face Lt. Gov. Bill Halter again in a primary runoff. Round two takes place June 8.

CNN Radio: Voters send a message in Tuesday night's primaries: Insiders are out. CNN's John Lisk and CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser examine a common thread in the races.


These three races all have unique storylines with their own set of actors, subplots and circumstances. Yet each political contest shares the overarching themes of anti-Washington and anti-establishment exacerbated by a sluggish economy and high unemployment rate.

Full story


Filed under: 2010
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Blanche Lincoln's days are numbered.

    May 19, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    I'd just like to point out how retarded the conservatives commenting in the Calderon article are. It was a good laugh, albeit a great example of the lengths of irrational illogic they will go in order to twist things to make what they think are legitimate points. Calderon used the phrase "our people" (as in "yours and mine") to refer to both the Mexican people and American people, saying that AZ's law would result in discrimination against both. Instead, we were treated to conservatives purposefully misinterpreting the statement to be a use of the royal plural, as if Calderon had used "our" instead of "my." Last I checked, presidents of democratic countries didn't use the "royal we." You guys are complete buffoons.

    Fact: AZ's law will result in discrimination against native Mexicans present in the US, who will be harrassed as a result of skin tone, language, etc. AND against US citizens who "look" Mexican, who will be harassed as a result of skin tone, language, etc. (and don't give us that crap about the police needing another offense first...everyone knows all the police need to do is fabricate some pretense...just like they do to white college kids having a house party when they feel like searching the place). It's a farce, and the conservatives who are willing to go out of their way to misinterpret clear as day statements are complete clowns who shine a light on the lie that the AZ law wasn't motivated by racist intent and an attempt to gain political leverage in a mid-term election year.

    May 19, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  3. Molly Weasley

    It's awfully simplistic for Beltway pundits to chalk up Tuesday night's results to an anti-incumbent mood. But once you people have a conventional wisdom worked out, you stick with it. The results are far more complicated.

    If you really talk to people in Pennsylvania, you'll find that many saw Arlen Specter's party switch as too self-serving. That swayed voters away from him more than anything else. Sestak's late ads about "the only job he wants to save is his own" were devastating.

    OF COURSE the established party is going to back an incumbent. The White House was pivotal in convincing Specter to switch parties. How could it desert him in an election? I don't see this as a loss.

    Blanche Lincoln alienated many voters in Arkansas with her two-faced approaches to many issues, including health reform. Bill Halter worked the state, and they're only a percentage point or so apart.

    The Rand Paul victory was a loss for the establishment GOP. It was still a small-ish turnout in the GOP primary, not nearly as many who voted in the Democratic primary. (Whatever happened to the supposed enthusiasm gap?) This is the same scenario that occurred in Utah - highly motivated activists grabbed the race.

    The true test of the night was PA-12. Democrat Mark Critz won because he worked the district and spent a lot of time talking to people. The Republican basically whined about Nancy Pelosi. Not a winning strategy.

    The biggest take-home message is: Good candidates, who really campaign and take the time to talk to people, win elections.

    May 19, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  4. FM

    It is time for the queen of Alaska to go and starting packing for her former boss "the maverick". It is so sad to see one by one going back where they came from. More painful to them, seeing someone like Robert Byrd, his vote still counts though I assume he is not aware what he is voting for!

    May 19, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    Yet if you read the comments from the libertards on these pages, you will discover that in their drug induced sphere, there is nothing wrong, Obama is giving his personal money for Obozocare and to help out those poor, needy union executives and it is the mean republicans who are to blame.for all of the problems.

    May 19, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  6. LIP

    The people have spoken. Arlen will no longer darken our doorway

    May 19, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  7. Larry

    After 2 useless wars, costing thousands of American soldiers' lives and 100,000 innocent Iraqi and Afghanistan lives......

    A financial collapse that almost put us into a depression.......

    Millions losing their jobs and homes.......

    The corrupt, career politicians in Washington are going to be joing the unemployment ranks.

    We've had enough!

    May 19, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  8. jeff jackson, alabama

    CNN , you made a comment
    a while back concerning Sarah
    Palin using the term " some politicians
    have a target on their backs in the next
    election." You said that incited violence.
    A whole lot of the liberals who
    write in to this site slammmmed her.
    Now you say it is open season on
    incumbents. OPEN SEASON ON INCUMBENTS.
    So what is any less violent in what you
    said, CNN ???

    May 19, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  9. grrace

    This not an "anti-incumbent" movement. This is an anti-war, pro-healthcare movement. If you want to cut the deficit, cut the wars and go single payer.

    May 19, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. bill

    where were the voters.20 percent does not make a demorcy work.i voted therefore i have right to gripe if it didnt go my way.soa message to americans vote or shut up

    May 19, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. emma

    A couple of Tea Party might get Senate seats but there will be Democrat wins as well, so this will probably yield a fairly balanced legislative group.

    May 19, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  12. cspurgeon

    He should be thanked for his service but 80 is way too old. Term Limits are the answer....

    May 19, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |