photo: hlkljgk via Flickr

On Tuesday, May 18, there are three highly contested Democratic primaries for US Senate seats: Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Arkansas. In each race, the more left-leaning Democratic candidate is currently polling as the most electable.

In Kentucky, Jack Conway, not a raging progressive but at least a supporter of much of the Democratic platform leads his ultra-conservative primary opponent, Dan Mongiardo. According to recent PPP and DailyKos/Research 2000 polls, Conway is polling better against likely Republican nominee Rand Paul than does Mongiardo.

PPP (May 1-2)
Paul 42%- Mongiardo 38%
Paul 41% – Conway 40%

DailyKos/Reseach 2000 (May 10-12)
Paul 43% – Mongiardo 38%
Paul 42% – Conway 39%

In Pennsylvania, Rep. Joe Sestak (PA-7) is challenging long-term Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter. In head-to-head matchups against Republican Pat Toomey, Sestak is narrowly out-performing Specter.

Quinnipiac (May 4-10)
Toomey 47% – Specter 40%
Toomey 42% – Sestak 40%

Rasmussen (May 6)
Toomey 50% – Specter 38%
Toomey 42% – Sestak 40%

The pattern continues in Arkansas where Bill Halter is challenging conservative Democrat Blanche Lincoln. Rep. John Boozman has a commanding lead in the Republican primary field and is the likely GOP nominee. Against Boozman, Halter is polling slightly better than Lincoln.

DailyKos/Reseach 2000 (May 10-12)
Boozman 54% – Lincoln 40%
Boozman 50% – Halter 41%

In each of the three primaries, the more progressive candidate currently has en edge. This might be an anti-incumbent effect against Specter and Lincoln, but does not explain Conway in Kentucky. The strategy of running right-leaning candidates in a tough year for Democrats just does not translate into being more electable.

It looks as if, given the choice between a real Republican or a Republican-lite fake, many voters will just choose the real thing.

Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at