Political Notebook

Senate primaries today may give hint of voters’ mood

Republican Rand Paul campaigned in Bowling Green, Ky., yesterday. Paul, the son of the former presidential candidate, is facing Trey Grayson, the secretary of state, in the GOP primary. Republican Rand Paul campaigned in Bowling Green, Ky., yesterday. Paul, the son of the former presidential candidate, is facing Trey Grayson, the secretary of state, in the GOP primary. (Joe Imel/ Bowling Green Daily News via Associated Press)
Associated Press / May 18, 2010

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Three Senate primaries will offer some signs today of the voters’ mood as the midterm elections near.

In Pennsylvania, Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican turned Democrat, is trying to hold off US Representative Joe Sestak for the party’s nomination. Sestak has spent much of the campaign painting Specter as a political opportunist for switching parties last year.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul, who has strong backing from Tea Party activists, is seeking the Republican nomination in a race against Trey Grayson, the secretary of state. Grayson is backed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and Kentucky’s senior senator.

In Arkansas, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter will try to oust the incumbent Democrat, Senator Blanche Lincoln, who has been criticized by her opponent for failing to support the health care overhaul legislation.

A poll released yesterday shows the Pennsylvania race is too close to call, the latest of many tough election challenges for Specter, 80.

Sestak told voters at a Pittsburgh coffee shop yesterday that Specter’s “time has come and gone.’’

In a stop at a suburban Harrisburg airport, Specter cast himself as the best advocate for Pennsylvania because of his long experience in Washington.

Grayson, campaigning in Louisville on Monday, characterized Paul as “clearly overconfident.’’ Grayson said large numbers of undecided Republican voters were moving toward him as he predicted an election night surprise.

Paul, an eye doctor making his first run for office, campaigned in Paducah in western Kentucky and in his hometown of Bowling Green. Paul, the son of Texas congressman and former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, has said the mood of the country and of the Republican Party is in his favor.

In the Arkansas race, Lincoln’s decision not to back the health care overhaul has lost her some support to Halter, who is backed by labor groups. Lincoln is leading in the polls, but the presence of businessman D.C. Morrison in the Democratic primary may force a June 8 runoff if no candidate wins at least 50 percent.

A House election in southwestern Pennsylvania has also become a battleground for the two major parties as they try out themes for the fall. The parties are investing about $1 million each in the race between Republican Tim Burns and Democrat Mark Critz to fill out the final months in the term of Representative John Murtha.

Kagan providing insight into her judicial approach
Reaching out to potential converts, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is dropping carefully calculated hints about her judicial approach on issues ranging from political speech to national security.

Kagan isn’t revealing much as she plods through a painstaking series of Capitol Hill meetings with the senators whose backing she needs for confirmation. But the 50-year-old solicitor general — who has never been a judge — has weighed in cautiously on several issues as she strives to paint a fuller picture of what kind of a justice she might be.

Take, for example, her closed-door exchange last week with Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who voted against Kagan’s nomination to her current job last year on the grounds she wouldn’t talk about her legal views.

Kagan divulged that she disagreed with a recent Supreme Court ruling that has provoked intense partisan debate, according to Specter. She criticized the court’s January ruling upholding the First Amendment rights of corporations and labor unions to spend money on campaign ads, thus enhancing their ability to influence federal elections.

In commenting on a case, Kagan was breaking with tradition. Judicial nominees, particularly for the high court rarely if ever weigh in on a ruling on the grounds that it could come before them in the future.