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In Arkansas and Pennsylvania, a tale of turnout

In yesterday's Senate primaries in Arkansas and Pennsylvania, turnout and shifting vote patterns left sitting Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) facing a runoff and defeated Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.).

The Arkansas' contest this year drew more voters than the state's 2008 presidential primary (with 99 percent counted, 326,216 have voted, compared with 314,234 in the '08 contest) and also topped the 1998 Senate primary (318,801 voted then). In that contest, Lincoln won the right to a runoff against then Attorney General Winston Bryant. She matched her overall share of the vote in that contest (45 percent), but there are some significant geographic differences.

Lincoln lost a large share of the vote in the state's eastern region - a mostly rural area with a large black population. In her first run at the Democratic nod for the Senate, Lincoln won 64 percent of votes there, but this time around, she garnered just 45 percent of the vote to Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's 42 percent. This region also represented a larger share of the vote than in 1998 - 29 percent vs. 22 percent.

But in the rest of the state, Lincoln improved her margins, including a 10 point increase in the state's most politically conservative region (the northwest) and more modest bumps in Little Rock (up four points to 49 percent, her largest regional tally) and the traditionally Democratic south (up six points).

The third challenger in yesterday's contest in Arkansas, businessman D.C. Morrison, topped out at 16 percent of the vote in the southern slice of the state.

Turning to Pennsylvania, as Paul Kane notes, Rep. Joe Sestak's win over Specter mirrors the pattern seen when Hillary Clinton topped Barack Obama in the presidential primary there two years ago. But there are a few notable differences between the two contests.

Sestak's home court advantage in the Philadelphia suburbs boosted him to a bigger margin there than Clinton (57 to 43 percent for Sestak in this race, 51 to 49 percent for Clinton in the presidential primary), while he garnered smaller margins in the northeast (Clinton won 66 percent of votes there to Sestak's 56 percent) and the western part of the state (Clinton had 62 percent, Sestak 56 percent).

Though Specter mirrored Obama's two-thirds share of the vote in Philadelphia, turnout there among registered Democrats was lower than in the rest of the state (as of now, with 96 percent of the votes in Philadelphia counted, 20 percent of Democratic registered voters cast a ballot, compared with 25 percent in the rest of the state, where 99 percent have been counted).

It's also worth looking at Specter's performance in the 2004 Republican primary, when he faced off against a challenge from the right in Pat Toomey. In that contest, Specter prevailed by winning big in Philadelphia and its suburbs, and holding a narrow edge in the rural, central parts of the state known as the "T."

But the distribution of votes in a Republican primary is vastly different from a Democratic one. In the GOP contest, just 4 percent of votes came from Philadelphia, while in this race, it was 16 percent. And that central region represented 42 percent of voters in the Republican primary, but in this contest, just a quarter of votes came from the state's geographic center, and Specter was unable to hold his edge there. Sestak topped Specter 60 to 40 percent.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  May 19, 2010; 10:41 AM ET
Categories:  Voting  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Rand Paul tops Ron Paul in Kentucky, by a lot
Next: GOP turnout jumps in Kentucky


Everyone is talking about Rand Paul and the tea party, but if you look at the numbers both the Democratic side, Rand Paul would lose hands down!!

Posted by: jrubin1 | May 19, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

This is one confusing short article and all over the place...Hiatt need to go!!!!!

Posted by: dove369 | May 19, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

For people that say "Vote out the incumbent..", what is the point of just voting them out if you are going to get new people that are just as owned by the Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Military, Big Banks, etc. aka Wall Street Gang.

What we/you need to do is to Vote people in based on them NOT being OWNED by Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Military, Big Banks, etc. aka Wall Street Gang, but being real representative of the people. And to do this we need to elect people based on their positions which they will promise that they will abide by once in the office, some of which KEY positions to prove that they are agents of the People and not agents of Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Military, Big Banks, etc. aka Wall Street Gang are:
1- They are for Universal nationalized health care as they have in ALL European countries, Canada, Japan, China, Israel, etc
2- For really ENDING the Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan,
3- For cutting the size of the US Military budget to 50% of what it was when Soviet Union existed since the Soviet Union and its supposed threat do no exist anymore, this means cutting US Military budget to about $200Bill per year, still the largest in the world by far, and investing those SAVINGS in American people and cities.

With the above said I am glad to see that real progressive liberals like Sestak in PA beat the fake Democrats like Specter. But unless they make a promise on above Key positions, it means very little since as soon as they get into office they will start again being agents of Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Military, Big Banks, etc. aka Wall Street Gang whom have access to 100s of Billions of Dollars vs the Middle class that has access ONLY to their Votes.

Much more here:

Posted by: RealNews1 | May 19, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Not a word about Mark Critz winning Murtha's seat? -- You know, the one Republicans were crowing they would win and would be a bellweather for the November elections?

Starting to look like all this Republican hot air about how well they're going to do in November is just a lot of whistling past the grave yard.

They are not going to regain the house, or the senate, or the presidency in 2012.

Posted by: monk4hall | May 19, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Get rid of the antiquated electoral college, replace it with popular vote and turnouts may double in presidential elections in non contested states. Halter got tremendous union support forcing Lincoln to spend 5 million of her re-election war chest increasing the turnout. AR and KY got more Dems than GOPers voting in the primary, that won't be true come Nov. The less than 25% approval of the sitting congress was not the overriding factor in Specter losing. While voting as a GOP senator could be forgiven, attacking the record of an admiral with 31 years of service and voting against Kagan and for Alito while a Democratic senator could not. His age also played a part in the loss. Plouffe probably advised Obama Sestak polled better against Toomey, hence no election day stop in Philadelphia.

Posted by: jameschirico | May 19, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

When are the Repulicants gonna run on something other than Bashing Obama and Pelosi? Where are their ideas?

Posted by: Angryman | May 19, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Strange that there has been NO mention of the Democratic primary in KY and that the turn-out FAR exceeded the Republican turn-out. In fact, the LOSER in the KY Dem primary received more votes than Rand Paul, the winner in the GOP primary.

So much for tea party momentum and *liberal media bias.* Facts that don't fit the media's prewritten narrative are being ignored.

Posted by: VAreader | May 19, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the GOP is learning here that you can't win just by being the party of NO. What does the GOP stand for anymore, other than representing the interests of the Big Banks who are fearful of reform? Most Americans, outside of the marginal 20 percent or so who support the Tea Party, want real solutions to the nation's problems, not just red-faced shouting and slogans.

Posted by: osullivanc1 | May 19, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

These elections proved nothing, except Spector isn't a Democrat. Arkansas couldn't make up it's mind, and Paul still needs to get through November. The only winner here is the press by hyping the whole thing.

Posted by: jckdoors | May 19, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The problem with Mark Critz is that saying he is a DINO is misleading. A more accurate way of describing him would be a full blooded conservative Republican who was accidentally labelled a Democrat. So the fact that he won on a platform that is against what the Democrats in Congress have achieved so far and are pushing for can't bode well for November. Also since the Democratic race in Kentucky was so close, the turnout was higher for Democrats. Paul was clearly the front runner from the beginning and therefore, lower Repub turnout

Posted by: rj88631 | May 20, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

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