Incumbents Fight for Political Life, Newcomers Eyeing Victory in Tuesday Elections

Political newcomers are once again poised to shake things up.

With each primary seeming to deliver one surprise after another, the elections in a dozen states on Tuesday could offer a glimpse into what the new class of lawmakers will look like in Washington and state capitals across the country.

Last month, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter was ousted by Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary, and Tea Party-supported Rand Paul won the open Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

The contests further fueled the mindset that 2010 is a year for political upstarts and that no incumbent's reelection can be taken for granted. The Tea Party movement has once again pushed several candidates to the fore in Tuesday's elections, while at least one Senate incumbent is scrambling to avoid Specter's fate.

Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln was pushed into a Democratic primary runoff last month against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter after she failed to win 50 percent of the vote. She is the highest-profile incumbent at risk of losing in Tuesday's elections.

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Her opponent is heavily supported by the unions, while Lincoln has been trumpeting the endorsement of one of Arkansas' most famous natives, former President Bill Clinton.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Fox News that Lincoln would be "lucky" to pull out a victory, an unusual turn of events for a Southern incumbent in a primary. Sabato, though, said the biggest political changes will come in November and not in the primaries; he predicted that about a half-dozen of the 200 or so incumbents up for reelection Tuesday could lose their seats.

Lincoln beat Halter by two points in last month's election and is keeping her chin up. She told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that she's not worried about the anti-Washington sentiment.

"I think Arkansas people are very independent-minded. And that's one of the reasons that we won the primary," she said. "And we are going to win on Tuesday."

Halter, on the same show, described Lincoln as a special interest-supporting, Wall Street-funded incumbent who isn't sticking up for the people in her state.

The two candidates have spent more than $10 million combined, making it one of the most expensive campaigns in the state's history.

Several high-profile elections are also being held in California, Nevada and South Carolina on Tuesday.

In California, two political newcomers have taken the lead in the races for U.S. Senate and the governorship.

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and former adviser to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, has claimed a significant lead over former Rep. Tom Campbell in the Republican primary race to challenge California Sen. Barbara Boxer in November. Tea Party favorite Chuck DeVore, a state assemblyman, has not been able to pick up a lot of traction in the race.

In the race for governor another business tycoon has taken the lead for the Republican nomination. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who was an early frontrunner, appears to have recovered in the polls from attacks on her immigration stance from California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Attorney General Jerry Brown is expected to win the Democratic nomination easily.

A Los Angeles Times/USC poll released late last month showed Whitman leading Poizner 53-to-29 percent.

The same poll showed Fiorina leading Campbell 38-to-23 percent. DeVore had 16 percent.

The survey of 1,506 registered voters was taken May 19-26. It had a margin of error of 2.6 points.

Matt Klink, a Republican political consultant, said voters in the state do not appear to be turned off by the fact that Whitman is using tens of millions of her own money to fund her campaign.

"The fact that Meg Whitman has the ability to self-fund her campaign -- I think that ultimately people don't look very hard at where the money comes from. They look at the messages that come out," he told Fox News.

Though DeVore has not surged in California, several other Tea Party-backed candidates have had a strong showing.

In the Nevada Republican Senate primary, Tea Party-supported Sharron Angle has vaulted to the front of the field, surpassing former state Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden and Las Vegas businessman Danny Tarkanian in a recent poll.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal poll conducted by the Mason-Dixon firm put Angle at 32 percent compared with 24 percent for Tarkanian and 23 percent for Lowden. The poll of 500 likely GOP primary voters was conducted June 1-3 and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

Those candidates are vying to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November. Angle lagged far behind until recently, but the volatility of the race means anything could happen before polls close. While Tea Party groups are elated at Angle's surge, Lowden's campaign is warning that she may not have the kind of general election appeal to defeat Reid.

Tea Party-backed candidates are also mounting a challenge against Republican Rep. Leonard Lance in New Jersey.

And South Carolina Rep. Nikki Haley, who boasts the support of both Tea Party groups and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is trying to become her state's first female governor.

That race has become a spectacle as two political operatives have come forward to claim they had affairs with Haley. Lobbyist Larry Marchant, who was working for Haley primary opponent Lt. Gov Andre Bauer until last week, claimed he had a one-night stand with Haley -- though he offered no evidence -- after blogger and former Haley communications consultant Will Folks claimed they had a relationship.

Haley has vehemently denied the charges. Palin stepped to her defense last month, claiming on her Facebook page that the attacks against Haley were typical for "conservative 'underdog' candidates who surge in the polls and threaten to shake things up."

Bauer, Attorney General Henry McMaster and Rep. Gresham Barrett are also running for the GOP nomination for governor. The winner will face one of several candidates from the Democratic side: state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, state Sen. Robert Ford or Education Superintendent Jim Rex.