Washington (CNN) - Voters from the Great Lakes to the Plains head to the polls Tuesday with primaries in Kansas, Michigan, and Missouri. In the spotlight are a competitive Republican Senate contest and gubernatorial primaries, as well as a key provision in the new federal health care reform law.
The GOP Senate battle is the marquee race in Kansas, as two congressmen fight to replace fellow Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, who is running for governor rather than for re-election.
According to the most recent polls, Rep. Jerry Moran heads into primary day with a lead over Rep. Todd Tiahrt..
"It's been a classic GOP primary, with each congressman claiming to be the true conservative. Moran has tried to be the more fiscal hawk and Tiarht is probably closest to conservatives on social issues," says Nathan Gonzales, political editor for the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.
Two other Republicans are also on the ballot. While five candidates are on the ballot in the Democratic primary, whoever captures the GOP contest will be considered the overwhelming favorite in the general election.
"The winner of the Republican primary essentially becomes the winner in November because Kansas is a state where Republicans dominate in federal races," adds Gonzales.
Expect competitive GOP primary contests to replace Moran in the state's 1st Congressional District and to replace Tiahrt in the 4th Congressional District. Nine Republicans and two Democrats are on the ballot in the 3rd Congressional District, hoping to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore. One of the two Democrats is Moore's wife Stephene.
Brownback, who made a bid for the White House in 2008, is favored to win the GOP gubernatorial nomination, as well as the general election in November.
In Michigan, the state with the second highest unemployment level in the country, the contest for the GOP gubernatorial nomination is the headliner. The winner will start the general election with an advantage.
Recent state surveys indicate that businessman and former Gateway CEO Rick Synder, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and Attorney General Mike Cox are in a three-way battle, with Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard in fourth place in a five-candidate field.
State Rep. Andy Dillon and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero are facing off for the Democratic nomination. Two-term Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm is term-limited.
Michigan's economy continues to sputter and with a sitting Democratic president and an outgoing Democratic governor, "it looks like Michiganders might be willing to let Republicans have a shot at governing," says Gonzales.
There are also competitive Republican primaries for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts. The GOP is hoping to score a pickup in November in the 1st Congressional District, where longtime Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak announced in April that he would not run for re-election.
Democratic Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick faces five opponents in her party's primary for the 13th Congressional District. The drama involving her son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is serving time for a parole violation, will not help her case.
There shouldn't be as much drama in Missouri, where the fight is to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond.
Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who hails from one of the state's leading political dynasties, is expected to easily win the Democratic primary. Rep. Roy Blunt, the former House Majority Whip, is expected to win in a nine-candidate Republican field. His only competition appears to be coming from Chuck Purgason, who enjoys the backing of many Tea Party activists.
One ballot initiative getting attention Tuesday is Missouri's Proposition C. It's a test of support for part of the new federal health care law, as voters decide if Missouri residents should be allowed of opt out of mandatory health insurance.
A recent Mason-Dixon poll conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV indicated extremely strong Republican support for the proposition, with Democrats opposing the idea by a 48-27 percent margin.
Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker told the Post-Dispatch that the proposition is likely to pass because there will be heavier Republican turnout for the primary. But if voters say yes, a court challenge is expected. Some states have already passed similar legislation, but this will be the first test at the ballot box.
–CNN Political Coverage Manager Steve Brusk contributed to this report
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn
The last thing this state needs is extremists like Sam Brownshirt running it or Tihart representing it. Kansas is funny. We have a tendency to elect Democratic and moderate governors. We elected Kathleen Sibilius twice and the man before her was a mocerate republican. I'll be voting for Tom Holland and Stephany Moore.
Fiscal Conservatism will rule the day in these State elections and most importantly in November!
People are screaming about having to buy health insurance and screaming that the fed. government has no right to make them buy something they don't want. hey, dummies, ever heard of AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE??? how many of you can choose to have that? and who in his or her right mind doesn't want health insurance??? these are the same folks who scream about other people suckling on the public teat. well, if they don't have health insurance and they get sick, guess what??? they'll be on the next teat over! insuring your health is what grown-ups do! of course, no one would mistake these whiny, greedy brats for grown-ups. ;-)
What do they mean by the terminology 'true conservative'? Is being a 'true conservative' mean that the individual have unshakable values that cater to the wealthiest few thus the minority, and not to the many who have lost their jobs, homes and have experienced income reduction as a result of the failed concept of 'trickel down' economics? Does the American need to belong to their church in order to achieve some measure of success in a lifetime? Does being a 'true conservative' mean that candidates have a unique ability to take advantage of those who are not so mentally or educationally well endowed just to get their vote? And finally, when these people get elected, who will they serve? The Corporations that paid for their compaigns, or the ordinary American citizens that got them elected? They will forget the people who voted them in. Consequently, we all loose if they get in. For what its worth, thats my opinion.
If they bring Health Care, again they lose like dogs in Nov....okay, This health care reform is nations desperate need, I am glad, it did pass in pres. Obama era....glad, glad, and glad....ok