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« Republican House Gain May Be Short Lived In Hawaii | Blog Home Page | The Week Ahead: Expecting The Unexpected »

Week In Midterms: Who Will Capitalize On Voter Mood?

Since Tuesday's elections, both parties have been furiously spinning the results. A common thread from Democrats and Republicans is that voters are hungry for change and not satisfied with Washington. The argument then is which party is in a stronger position to make the case that they can offer that.

Republicans can rightly say that they are well-positioned to do so as the party out of power. Polling on the generic ballot, though shifting somewhat back toward Democrats of late, is still leaning toward a strong November. And gubernatorial contests last year in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as the Massachusetts Senate contest this January, seemed to give credence to that point.

But Democrats this week held a special Congressional election in Pennsylvania 12, a district John McCain had won in 2008. Democrats in fact haven't lost a single special election for the House in two years, though that streak is expected to end tomorrow when votes are tallied in Hawaii-01. Mark Critz's victory has led to questions about whether the National Republican Campaign Committee is up to the challenge of winning the more than 40 seats required to take back the House this fall. Speaking at the National Press Club this week, Tim Kaine also made the argument that voters who want change are seeing it as Democrats notch victories on financial reform, health care and the stimulus.

Tuesday's results showed candidates running against the establishment are perhaps best positioned this fall, regardless of party.

For a look back at the May 18 primary night, check out a rundown of our Live Blog and see the returns as they came in and updates throughout the evening. Also check out our take from the following day on what it all means.

SENATE

NEW POLLS: Arizona, Arkansas Runoff, Arkansas General, California primary, California primary & general; Colorado (general and primary), Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania

ARIZONA: The National Review endorses John McCain for re-election.

ARKANSAS: So Blanche Lincoln and Bill Halter will meet again. June 8 to be exact, joining nearly a dozen other states holding elections that day. Labor interests say they'll do anything it takes over the next few weeks to get Halter elected.

CONNECTICUT: And we thought the biggest news Tuesday was going to be the elections in Arkansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Little did we know that Monday night the New York Times would put online its Tuesday morning, top-of-the-fold piece on Democrat Richard Blumenthal's record of exaggerating his military experience -- by that we mean telling crowds he served in Vietnam when in reality he was never deployed. What's worse for Blumenthal is that one of his opponents, Republican Rob Simmons, did serve in Vietnam.

KENTUCKY: Rand Paul's post-primary victory tour quickly hit a rough patch, saying in more than one interview that certain portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 struck him as not necessarily constitutional. He was being honest and making the kind of argument lawyers love to debate. But he touched one of the third rails of politics. One statistic from the primary that Democrats will point to in the months ahead: 521k Dems voted in the primary, 352k Republicans voted.

PENNSYLVANIA: Joe Sestak, the second-term congressman from the Philly suburbs, took down a longtime senator who was also a shorttime Democrat -- which seemed to be the difference in the primary. Sestak bounced out of Tuesday with a 4-point lead in a new automated poll.

TARP: Leading off the week was a story in the Washington Post detailing why the Troubled Assets Relief Program from 2008 is one of most important driving forces behind much of the anti-incumbent fervor right now. It's something to keep an eye on, and certainly something senators are watching as they run for or plan for re-election amid a volatile electorate.

GOVERNOR

NEW POLLS: Arizona General; Arizona Primary; California primary; California primary & general; Colorado; Florida; Pennsylvania; Minnesota; South Carolina; Texas.

CALIFORNIA: The Sacramento Bee writes about Meg Whitman's declining poll numbers after PPIC showed a tightening race. The tightening race is attributed to Steve Poizner's attack of Goldman Sachs ties, and the re-emergence of illegal immigration as an issue after the Arizona law. The ad war keeps getting uglier between the two GOPers. Whitman touted the endorsement of former Vice President Cheney.

FLORIDA: Facing a real fight in his primary, Bill McCollum (R) calls on Jeb Bush for an endorsement in his first television ad. McCollum also showed a new aggressive posture against Scott. Alex Sink (D) hits McCollum over state money paid to George Rekers, the anti-gay activist who allegedly employed a gay escort.

IOWA: Vice President Joe Biden praised Gov. Chet Culver's (D) leadership as he helped him kick off his re-election campaign, saying the economy is improving faster in Iowa than elsewhere. Speaking of national support, fundraising reports filed this week showed that Culver raised more than half of his funds from out of state, including $750,000 from the DGA. Branstad led the GOP pack. The Republican candidates debated, with Bob Vander Plaats targeting Branstad's tenure as governor. Mitt Romney endorsed Branstad. Just what Culver needs: he was involved in a traffic stop, and his briefing book was lost and discovered by reporters. Branstad also launched his first TV ad, which looks familiar.

MICHIGAN: Several new television ads of note in the GOP primary. First, Attorney General Mike Cox launched an ad using Pete Hoekstra's tenure in Washington against him. His ad looks at the Congressman's "Big Government Blueprint."

NEW YORK: Is the bubble bursting for Steve Levy in the GOP? The New York Conservative Party, which plans to give Rick Lazio its ballot line, has moved its convention date up before the state GOP Convention. Lazio said he doesn't think Levy will get enough support to force a primary. He chose a Western New York county executive as his running mate pick. Is there another GOP candidate pondering a run?

OREGON: Former NBA star Chris Dudley (R) and former Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) hit the campaign trail hard after winning their respective primary victories on Tuesday. Dudley was off-target in one of his first salvos against his rival, accusing Kitzhaber of supporting borrowing to balance the state budget, which he had actually opposed.

THE REST: Dan Onorato won the Democratic nomination rather handily in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. The RGA, in yet another early ad, hits Ted Strickland in Ohio.

HANDICAPPER WATCH
Cook Political Report:
* Connecticut Senate from Lean Democrat to Toss Up
* PA-12 from Toss Up to Lean Democrat

Rothenberg Political Report:
* PA-12 from Toss Up to Lean Democrat

RCP PROJECTIONS
Senate: GOP +7
Governor: GOP +5
House Map

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad