Anti-Incumbent Feeling Fuels Midterm Primaries

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., speaks during a rally at Gateway Park, Saturday, May 15, 2010, in Coatesville, Pa. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
AP Photo
With midterm elections fast approaching and what appears to be an anti-incumbent movement building across the country, upcoming political primary races are being watched by voters and both political parties. When Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) lost his state's GOP primary it became clear that other senators may face similar challenges in their states.

CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Greenberg and New York Times politics correspondent Jeff Zeleny spoke about Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court and the 2010 elections on "Face the Nation".

Anchor Bob Schieffer called the political atmosphere in the country toxic and asked if any Republican could vote for a proposal of President Obama's without fear of retribution from their own party or from hard-line voters.

"[E]very single proposal that this White House puts forward is scrutinized," said Zeleny. "And [Kagan's nomination] is more important because [a Supreme Court justice is] lasting. It's permanent. And this Supreme Court fight is coming at the same time that people are already questioning their government, government expansion. They're very concerned about the policies that have happened in the first year and a half of this administration."

Greenberg said that the Supreme Court fight over Elena Kagan would likely influence elections in November. "The president got out front on this when he really took a slam at the Supreme Court in the State of the Union address, criticizing that campaign finance ruling [and] saying the Supreme Court - the conservative-dominated Supreme Court - was out of touch with everyday Americans."

Kagan's nomination is one of many things Republicans and Democrats are getting ready to fight over, but in Pennsylvania Democrats are fighting among themselves.

Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter is facing a tough primary challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak who has released a potentially devastating attack ad against Specter in which Specter says on camera, "My change in party will enable me to be re-elected."

The ad also shows then-President George W. Bush praising Specter, saying, "Arlen Specter is the right man for the United States Senate. I can count on this man--see, that's important. He is a firm ally."

Zeleny said that Specter is in "big trouble. You can tell just by watching what he's doing in these final days. He has gone negative incredibly. But Democrats there who I talked to say, 'Why should they vote for him?' These are sort of the mid-term elections where it's the core Democrats who are coming out."

He added, "This ad picturing him with President Bush is the most devastating thing, and everything in the ad is true. This isn't one of those [ads] throwing a false charge. Everything in the ad seems to be true. So, he is in trouble on Tuesday."

With Bennett's loss in Utah, a Specter loss doesn't seem so far-fetched.

The anti-government feeling among voters is bipartisan, said Crawford. "This is a time when, if you are a D.C. insider or if you have experience and especially Washington experience, it's not an asset," she said.

"[W]hether it's Scott Brown winning in Massachusetts or Blanche Lincoln in trouble in Arkansas or Arlen Specter, seeing Bush in his full glory, I think the ironic thing about that ad is that there was huge disagreement in the Bush White House about whether he should go out and try to help Arlen Specter. And so, he had decided to anyway. Well, now he is obviously hurting Arlen Specter."

Schieffer said, "I don't think we're going to see Barack Obama in Pennsylvania."

Zeleny agreed. "He's not going to Pennsylvania. I'm not sure how much it would help at this point."

Another race Zeleny points to is Kentucky. "It's an interesting race down there," he said. Republican candidate Trey Grayon "is really struggling against the mother of all Tea Party candidates, Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul."

And with Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) facing a tough challenge in the Arkansas primary, Democrats and the GOP could see major changes in November.