Another series of primary contests took place across the US yesterday, as voters from both main parties picked their candidates to fight various seats in Congress and Governorships in the mid-term elections this November. Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln defied predictions to win her party's nomination to defend her Senate seat, but generally incumbent politicians have been struggling.
Normally this anti-incumbency mood would be bad for the party in power, which in this case is the Democrats. They hold not just the presidency, but also comfortable majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, established Republicans are having even more trouble winning their party's nominations, as right-wing rivals emerge from the Tea Party movement to challenge them.
This is much better news for President Obama and his Democrats. While the Tea Party folks offer enough energy and enthusiasm to get their candidates selected in Republican primaries, several seem to be too right-wing to have much chance against their Democrat opponents in November. Kentucky offers a classic example, where right-winger Rand Paul beat an establishment rival to take the Republican nomination for a Senate seat, only to get quickly bogged down in a race row following some confusing comments he made about civil rights law.
This all means that several unpopular Democrats may be able to hold on to their seats in November, precisely because the Republicans have picked candidates which are too right-wing to beat them in a general election. The challenge for the Republicans is to turn the enthusiasm of the Tea Party people into votes, and that could prove to be a tougher political test than anything the Democrats face.