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Published: Friday, 6/11/2010

Fresh political faces

Although this week's primary results from around the country promise an unusual array of candidates in November, they do not present a clear picture of where the American electorate is going.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.) did not go down to defeat as have incumbents Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Bob Bennett of Utah, despite the $10 million that organized labor poured into the race to defeat her. So much for the theory that 2010 is going to be open season on incumbents.

Ms. Lincoln also had President Obama's support, which suggests that his coattails may have some usefulness, in spite of the flak he is taking for not yet having conquered the BP oil leak.

In California, the Republican gubernatorial and U.S. Senate nominations went to women with corporate backgrounds. Meg Whitman, former CEO and president of eBay, will face off for governor against former Gov. Jerry Brown. Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, will oppose incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer.

California's Republican voters were not infected with the country's general disgust with business, represented by BP and the Wall Street banks. Nor were they disturbed by Ms. Whitman's pouring $71 million of her personal fortune into the campaign.

South Carolina's GOP primary for governor distinguished itself by its personal smears. Supporters of opponents of state Rep. Nikki Haley accused her of two extramarital adventures. Another called her a "raghead," in reference to her South Asian Indian heritage.

Given the state's reputation for gutter politics, employed with success by the campaign of George W. Bush in the 2000 primary against John McCain, it might have worked. Instead, supported by former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Ms. Haley got through this round and is expected to win the party runoff June 22. If she does, she will face Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen in the fall.

It's still hard to gauge how much punch the Tea Partiers pack. They supported Ms. Haley, although that was not her salient characteristic as a candidate, even with Ms. Palin's support.

They also backed Republican Sharron Angle in Nevada, who will challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November. Some of her more controversial views, such as support for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste-disposal site, make her the kind of candidate Mr. Reid, a Democrat, would like to take on.

Americans need new faces with fresh ideas in politics. This week's races gave them some, but it isn't clear which candidates will survive the final round or where voters are going in their political thinking.



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