With Tuesday’s primary and special elections in the books, it’s now the duty of every political pundit to create an overarching narrative to tie everything together; a lesson of the day, if you will. But what emerged from these scattered races was a mixed bag of results, really. If you want evidence for the historic levels of anti-establishment rage, it’s there. But if you want evidence that anti-establishment rage isn’t as powerful as some make it out to be, that’s there, too.
Feel the Anti-Incumbent/Anti-Establishment Wrath!: In Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary, Arlen Specter, a 30-year Senate veteran, was convincingly defeated by progressive two-term congressman and former Navy admiral Joe Sestak. In Arkansas’s Democratic Senate primary, incumbent moderate Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff after basically tying Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter in a three-way race, a performance that fell well below expectations for her. And in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary, Rand Paul trounced party favorite Trey Grayson with the help of the tea party movement.
The Whole Anti-Incumbent/Anti-Establishment Thing Is Overblown: Sure, Specter lost, but what do you expect of a lifetime Republican — Specter only became a Democrat last year — running in a Democratic primary? His party switch and former life in the GOP was much more of a factor than his incumbency. Paul’s victory in Kentucky only shows that offspring of Ron Paul will never want for passionate grassroots support. Oh, and also in Pennsylvania, in a special House election to fill the deceased John Murtha’s seat, the victorious Democrat, Mark Critz, was a former aide to Murtha. It doesn’t get much more nepotistic and insider-y than that.