All eyes are turned toward Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Kentucky today. And when the votes are tallied at the end of the night, the message will be crystal clear: if you're an inside-the-Beltway candidate - no matter what party you call your own - watch out.
There are of course unique circumstances at play in each race, but the underlying trend is the same: grassroots vs. Washington establishment. And in each example the Washington establishment is likely to come out on the losing end.
I've been asked a lot about my predictions for these races, so here goes:
Arkansas - Senate Democratic Primary
Blanche Lincoln has taken some major hits over the last several months: on her "card check" position and on health care reform to name just a few. And while she's been on the defensive, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter has been able to position himself as the outsider candidate. Add D.C. Morrison into the mix we're likely to end up with a run-off between Lincoln & Halter that will drag out an already expensive and contentious race.
Kentucky - Senate Republican Primary
Rand Paul is predicting a "Tea Party tidal wave" to bring him to victory, and I have to say I agree with him to some extent. But the fact is, his likely victory has as much to do with the Tea Party as it does with the overall electorate's disgust with Washington. He has tapped into their frustration with insider politics. And he’s has mounted a major challenge to Secretary of State Trey Grayson who has the support of Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Republican party establishment.
Pennsylvania - Senate Democratic Primary
Arlen Specter – The five-term, former Republican Senator, who is backed by most of the Washington insiders despite his recent shift to the Democratic camp - is probably going to lose to Joe Sestak, who has successfully built a grassroots following that's sick of politics as usual. They are likely to drive turnout and propel Sestak to the nomination.
Pennsylvania – Special Election to Fill Rep. John Murtha’s Seat
The impact of this statewide contest is likely to be felt in the special election for Rep. John Murtha's seat as well. With such a dramatic contest for the Senate Democratic nomination and no real action statewide on the Republican side, Democratic candidate Mark Critz could benefit. Special elections normally see a low voter turnout, but with this one falling on the same day as a high-profile statewide primary, this is going to be an interesting one to watch.
In my opinion it's too close to call. But if Republican Tim Burns pulls out a Scott-Brown-esque victory despite the potential boost in Democratic turnout from the statewide contest, it's going to be another strong signal that 2010 is not only an anti-incumbent year, but a year that does not bode well for us Democrats. Like Kennedy in Massachusetts, Murtha held this seat for eons. And if the guy that Murtha's closest confidants and the Democratic establishment chose to be his heir loses today, it's going to have a very similar impact to Brown winning in Massachusetts.
At the end of the day I think the outcomes in all three states are going to drive home a message that the inside-the-Beltway crowd needs to hear loud and clear: start thinking beyond Washington and actually listen to what the voters are telling you.
Joe Trippi is a Fox News contributor and political strategist who worked for Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale and Gary Hart and turned Howard Dean into an unlikely front runner in 2004. For more visit JoeTrippi.com.
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