Two U.S. senators in jeopardy on big day of voting

* Voter anger fuels threats to two Senate incumbents

* Republican primary tests “Tea Party” movement

By John Whitesides

WASHINGTON, May 18 (BestGrowthStock) – With voter anger running
high, two veteran U.S. senators face potential career-ending
challenges on Tuesday in primary contests that could measure
the anti-Washington mood before November’s midterm elections.

Democrats Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Blanche Lincoln
of Arkansas face strong tests from the left. Also, a U.S.
Senate race in Kentucky between a Republican establishment
favorite and a conservative “Tea Party” activist will test the
strength of that loosely organized movement.

Kentucky will be the first state to close its polls, with
voting ending at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) in the months-long,
state-by-state process of the two parties picking their
candidates for November’s congressional elections.

The three primary election battles highlight the biggest
day of voting so far in a year when opinion polls find a sour
voter mood fueled by distrust of Washington and worries that
neither party is doing enough to rescue the economy and
restrain government spending.

That mood, which pollsters say is the strongest in decades,
threatens to sweep away many well-known incumbents and put
Democratic control of Congress at risk in November’s election
when all 435 House of Representatives seats, 36 of 100 Senate
seats and 37 of 50 state governorships are at stake.

“If you’re an incumbent, it doesn’t matter what party you
are in — you better take this seriously. People are angry,”
said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research.

Prominent incumbents in each party — three-term Republican
Senator Robert Bennett of Utah and 14-term Democratic
Congressman Alan Mollohan — already failed to win their party
nominations in a possible sign of things to come.

Specter, a 30-year Senate veteran and former chairman of
the Judiciary Committee, would be the biggest incumbent to go
down so far this year if he loses on Tuesday.

He switched from Republican to Democrat last year after
realizing he could not win a Republican primary but a 20-point
lead over Representative Joe Sestak has slipped to a dead heat
as Sestak questioned Specter’s party credentials.

‘THE ULTIMATE INCUMBENT’

“As we have seen elsewhere this spring, there is an
anti-incumbent mood in the electorate and Specter, with 30
years in the Senate, is the ultimate incumbent,” Quinnipiac
University pollster Peter Brown said.

Party officials have rallied to Specter’s aid and he aired
an ad featuring President Barack Obama praising him. But even
with a primary victory, Specter would face a tough re-election
fight in November against Republican Pat Toomey.

The polls in Pennsylvania close at 8 p.m. EDT (midnight
GMT).

In Arkansas, two-term incumbent Lincoln is in a heated
primary race with Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, who has been
backed by labor unions unhappy with Lincoln’s failure to
support a bill making it easier to organize workplaces.

During the debate on an overhaul of financial regulations,
Lincoln introduced a tough bill to force investment banks to
dump their derivatives businesses in what critics called an
overture to the left.

Like Specter, Lincoln faces a tough general election
campaign even if she beats Halter. Polls show Representative
John Boozman, expected to emerge from a crowded Republican
primary, currently leads her in a potential November matchup.

The polls close in Arkansas at 8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 GMT).

For Republicans, the Kentucky battle for retiring Senator
Jim Bunning’s seat pits establishment favorite Trey Grayson —
the handpicked candidate of Senate Republican leader Mitch
McConnell — against Rand Paul, a doctor and son of libertarian
Republican Representative Ron Paul, who has been backed by
conservative Tea Party groups.

A victory for Paul, who leads in recent polls, would be
another boost for a Tea Party movement that helped take down
Bennett in Utah and drive moderate Governor Charlie Crist out
of Florida’s Republican Senate primary. Crist will run as an
independent.

Pennsylvania also will hold a special House election to
replace Democrat John Murtha, who died in February. A
Republican win would be a first step in their climb toward
reclaiming House control — they need to gain 41 seats in the
435-seat chamber.
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(Editing by David Alexander and John O’Callaghan)

Two U.S. senators in jeopardy on big day of voting