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« Week In Midterms: The Obama Effect In 2010 | Blog Home Page | After Bennett, Who's Next In Club For Growth Crosshairs? »

The Week Ahead: D-Day For Establishment Candidates

We're near the midpoint of a six-week stretch that sees primary or special elections in 25 of the 50 states. And this could be the most revelatory in that run, with major tests for incumbent senators in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, the likely victory of insurgent Rand Paul in Kentucky, and special Congressional elections in Hawaii and Pennsylvania where Democrats will potentially lose seats in the House for the first time this cycle. That's the major headline in our look at the Week Ahead.

Politics: Some of the final polls released this weekend indicate that both Pennsylvania races are too close to call. The turnout operations will be key. For Arlen Specter, that means convincing Democrats who never voted for him in a primary before -- perhaps at all -- to do so this week. For Mark Critz, it means keeping the conservative Democrats in a McCain 2008 District from crossing party lines again. Meanwhile, the Arkansas primary between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter could head to a runoff, as will the GOP race to challenge the eventual winner.

In Kentucky, Democrats have their own primary but the attention will all be on the Republican Senate race. Sen. Mitch McConnell and the establishment Republicans pushed Jim Bunning to retire and anointed Secretary of State Trey Grayson as his replacement. But Rand Paul has tapped into the tea party movement and his father's network of libertarians to take a commanding lead.

Hawaii, meanwhile, is a case of mutually-assured destruction for Democrats. Because the special election to replace Neil Abercrombie (D) includes two Democrats, Republican Charles Djou is well-positioned to win. More troubling, perhaps is that the Democratic battle between Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case won't end Saturday, but continues through a mid-September primary to decide who makes the regular November ballot. A win by Djou Saturday is now conventional wisdom. But if Democrats remain divided this fall and Djou holds a heavily-Democratic seat beyond this year, it would be a major upset.

The White House: If not for this week's elections, the goings on at the White House this week would be generating much more attention. The major event this week is Wednesday's state visit by Mexican President Calderon. He'll hold a bilateral meeting with President Obama as well as a press conference, where you can be sure immigration reform and the Arizona legislation will be a major topic. That night is the second state dinner in the Obama White House, honoring Calderon. The new social secretary will be under the spotlight as her office tries to avoid a repeat of the Sulahi affair, a major embarrassment last year.

The economy is also on the radar again. Tuesday, Obama makes yet another trip to Ohio -- his seventh since taking office. Other then Maryland and Virginia, which neighbor Washington, DC, Obama has only visited New York more often in his nearly 500 days as president. This time he heads to Youngstown, where he'll tour V & M Star Ohio, which calls itself "North America's leading producer of seamless Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG), Line & Standard Pipe, Coupling Stock and Mechanical Tube."

Today, Obama signs the Freedom of Press Act and welcomes the NCAA Women's Basketball champions, the UConn Huskies.

**Capitol Hill: There will be at least one hearing this week on the Gulf oil spill, as the Senate Homeland Security committee today welcomes witnesses including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and BP chairman and president Lamar McKay. The Senate continues debating the Wall Street reform bill, with several amendments awaiting a vote. The Hill notes that Democrats will be battling among themselves this week over whether to strengthen the bill, particularly over an amendment that would ban the trading of certain derivatives and one that would "place stronger restrictions on proprietary trading." The House gets back to work Tuesday and will complete action on The American Jobs, Closing Tax Loopholes and Preventing Outsourcing Act.

**Poll Watch:
Obama Job Performance: Approve 48.3 / Disapprove 45.8 (+2.5)
Congress Job Performance: Approve 22.3 / Disapprove 70.9 (-48.6)
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +0.2

** In Case You Missed It: Big news in a major Republican primary not happening this Tuesday: John McCain's campaign manager and deputy campaign manager are out. Per the Arizona Republic, "More staff announcements are expected this week." As was the case during his presidential run, shakeups like this are never a good sign.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad