A wave of anti-incumbent fever in the United States threatened to wash away another victim on Tuesday as voters in 11 states chose candidates to face off in November congressional elections.
Senator Blanche Lincoln, a moderate Democrat who has been a key figure in financial regulation legislation, was fighting for her political life in her Arkansas runoff race as she seeks a third term.
Lincoln's defeat would be another sign that Americans are in a "throw-the-bums" out mood this year. Many incumbents are struggling as they face recession-weary voters fed up with the economic record of both parties in Washington in recent years.
A Washington Post poll published on Tuesday found that only 26 per cent of the public approved of the job Congress was doing and only 49 per cent approved of the way their own U.S. representative was handling the job.
Those numbers are worse than in 1994, when Republicans recaptured control of the U.S. Congress for the first time in 40 years.
In California, two women who are former corporate CEOs, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, were favored in their Republican primary races for a chance at state-wide offices.
In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat facing an uphill battle for re-election in his home state, could get a boost if Republicans elect a conservative "Tea Party" candidate to face Reid.
In South Carolina, Republican state representative Nikki Haley won the party's primary vote but fell just short of the 50 per cent needed to avoid a runoff with second-place finisher Gresham Barrett.
Haley denied allegations from two Republican operatives that she had engaged in adultery with both of them. This came in a state where voters were shocked last year by Republican Governor Mark Sanford's affair with an Argentine mistress that broke up his marriage.
The headliner event took place in Arkansas, where Lincoln was in a run-off election required after she won a May 18 primary vote but failed to win the necessary majority.
While Lincoln led in early vote-counting, polls suggested she was at risk of losing to the state's lieutenant governor, Bill Halter, in the race for the Democratic nomination to face Republican Representative John Boozman in the Nov. 2 elections.
A confident-sounding Halter, who had the backing of union and liberal groups, was already looking ahead to November, predicting he would beat Boozman.
"Not only can I, but I will," Halter told MSNBC's The Ed Show, before the Arkansas polls closed. "I will beat him."
A victory over Lincoln by Halter would be a stinging defeat of the Democratic establishment. Lincoln has faced anger from the left for her opposition to parts of the U.S. health-care legislation -- she eventually voted for it - and from conservative Democrats critical of her support for bank bailouts.
Feeling political heat over the bailouts, she authored a provision that would force banks to spin off their swaps desks, which potentially could cost them billions of dollars in revenue. Lincoln says the step would prevent taxpayer bail-outs of banks due to risky trades.
A loss by Lincoln would extend Obama's losing streak. In the past months he has backed Democratic candidates in races in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts and all have lost.
In California, Republicans were deciding on their challenger to face incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, who for the first time is facing an uncertain re-election bid.
Millionaire Fiorina, the former CEO of computer maker Hewlett-Packard Co., had built a double-digit lead in the polls over moderate Tom Campbell and conservative Chuck DeVore.
In the Republican race to replace Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, billionaire and former eBay Inc CEO Meg Whitman led state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner.
The winner will oppose presumptive Democratic nominee Jerry Brown, a former governor and long-time figure in state politics, in November.
California's race for governor is on track to be the most expensive campaign in U.S. history outside a presidential contest, with the two Republican candidates alone spending more than $100-million in the primary.
The Republicans in both races are battling over who is a true conservative candidate, a key issue in California where unemployment is at a modern record 12.6 per cent and the state government has a $20-billion budget gap.
Nevada's Harry Reid, struggling to avoid being ensnared in the anti-incumbent fervor, would likely see a way to stave off defeat if Nevada Republicans choose Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.
Angle was in a dead heat with establishment candidate Sue Lowden, a former head of the Nevada Republican Party.
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