Politicos will be watching about two dozen contests across twelve states Tuesday, but here are the four most interesting:
The Democratic Senate primary in Arkansas. Sen.Blanche Lincoln v. Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in a run-off. Enough with the Halter top jokes, folks, but there's a strong chance that Halter will win, and that labor unions will emerge triumphant. Indeed, Lincoln is right: Halter has become a proxy for the labor movement's political power, and labor is damn proud of it. Unions went into a state with very few union members to take on an incumbent senator who was no longer fighting for working families. Yes, it is about Lincoln and her votes, but the unions that engaged in this fight were making a broader statement to Democrats: "If you abandon workers and basic Democratic values, what happened to Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas (of all places) can also happen to you." Labor vets don't remember a fight like this. And they're energized by it. And their members are loving it.
Proposition 14 in California: It would scrap the state's primary laws and replace them with a system that allows the top two candidates of either parties to advance to the November elections for congressional and statewide races. Reformers tried to get Californians to approve this measure in 2004, when politics were relatively stable; it failed. With politics being perceived as broken, it has a shot. Business interests, Gov. Schwarzenegger and some good government types like the reform. Political parties and labor oppose it. (The parties would still be allowed to endorse candidates.)
Rep. Bob Inglis's seat. South Carolina's 4th Congressoinal district is one of the most Republican in the state (think Spartanburg and Greenville). And Inglis is quite conservative. But apparently, his votes in favor of TARP opened a window for a credible challenger, a former federal prosecutor, Trey Gowdy, and three other candidates. Inglis probably won't get 50% of the vote, forcing a run-off, which would favor Gowdy.
The South Carolina gubernatorial race. Why is Nikki Haley doing so well despite the sex scandals? She's successfully evaded the charges by portraying herself as a victim of the elite establishment that's trying to knock her down. In and of itself, this might have worked, given Haley's reputation as an iconoclast. But Sarah Palin, who copyrighted the trick of turning elite condemnation into fuel for popularity, rushed to Haley's side and anointed her. If no candidate gets more than 50%, a run-off will be held June 22.