The big races to watch:

Kentucky: Rand Paul vs. Trey Grayson
What To Watch In Kentucky

In Kentucky, Jack Conway (D) and Dan Mongiardo (D) face off in what has turned out to be a very close Democratic Senate primary. Polls close across the state by 7 pm ET.

1. Jack Conway is from Louisville and is expected to do quite well there. Louisville has a tendency to report its results earlier in the evening, and Conway should lead early in the count. Dan Mongiardo is counting on a strong performance in the rural areas of Kentucky and should be able to close the gap with Conway as those results come in. If Mongiardo leads with 50% of the precincts reporting, he’ll likely win.

2. Will voters actually pull the lever for Darlene Price? This former US customs drug agent and Democratic candidate for US Senate has been pulling about 5% in recent polls. In polls, her vote tends to be among Conway’s constituency of liberals and females. If the support Price falters at the polls, Conway is likely to be the beneficiary and it may put him over the top.

3. Does anybody actually show-up? Most of the media attention in Kentucky (and nationally) has been focused on the Republican Senatorial primary between likely winner Rand Paul and Trey Grayson. The Secretary of State, who happens to be Trey Grayson, predicts only a 30% turnout statewide. Conway has vastly outspent Mongiardo on television and is likely to benefit from a large turnout. If more than 500,000 votes are cast statewide in the Democratic primary, Conway is likely to win.

Pennsylvania: Arlen Specter vs. Joe Sestak
What To Watch In Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) faces a tough primary challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) for the Democratic Senate nomination. Polls close at 8 pm ET.

1. The early returns will come from Philadelphia where Specter is widely seen as having an advantage. Specter started his political career as Philly’s district attorney and is counting on a large turnout among African-Americans. While polling differs on how well Specter and Sestak are doing in Philadelphia, Specter better jump out to a large lead early or his night will likely be a long one.

2. Speaking of the black vote, Specter’s fate may be tied to Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Anthony Williams. Williams, who is African-American, has, like Specter, been endorsed by most of the major politicians and political organizations in Philadelphia. While Williams is likely to lose to front-runner Dan Onorato, a strong Williams performance (20%+ statewide) probably indicates a high African-American turnout and is good for Specter.

3. Suffolk University pollsters have pegged York County as the “bellwether” county. That is, the county most likely to predict the results statewide. While Suffolk University does not always get the results right, the winner of their chosen bellwether county almost always wins statewide.

Arkansas: Blanche Lincoln vs. Bill Halter
What To Watch In Arkansas

In Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) faces a primary challenge from Bill Halter (D) for the Democratic Senate nomination. Polls close at 8:30 pm ET.

1. Most experts believe that Blanche Lincoln will win the most votes on Tuesday, but will she get the 50%+1 to avoid a runoff? A key factor will be whether conservative Democrat D.C. Morrison can garner anywhere near the mid to high single digits he has in recent polls. If Morrison voters do no show up, Lincoln chances of getting to the 50% benchmark go significantly higher.

2. The early returns from past Arkansas elections have typically been from liberal areas, which are Bill Halter’s constituencies. If Blanche Lincoln’s vote is north of 45% when the first 10% of precincts report, she will probably be able to garner the extra 5% needed to put her over the top.

3. Much of Halter’s liberal base is concentrated in Arkansas 2nd congressional district, home to Little Rock and a large African-American population. Polls indicate that Halter’s campaign, as it did in the 2006 Democratic Lt. Gubernatorial primary, will benefit from large African-American turnout in Little Rock. Luckily for Halter, many contested primaries are being held in the second district, including for the House of Representatives where one of the top candidates, Joyce Elliott, is African-American and liberal. If Elliott makes it into a runoff with second district front-runner Robbie Wills, it probably means African-American turnout is high.

What to watch in Tuesday’s primaries


The Portland suburbs

In the GOP governor’s race, former Portland Trailblazers basketball player Chris Dudley is the frontrunner, but businessman Allen Alley is counting on conservatives breaking to him as the purer of the two top contenders in a race with nine candidates on the ballot.

Dudley’s base is the Portland suburbs, where he has volunteered as an assistant coach at a local high school, and he’s strong among men because of his background as a professional athlete. Alley focused on Republican rural Oregon, taking a much-publicized 400-mile hike across the state last summer.

“If Republican turnout is light in the suburbs, it would be bad for Dudley,” said Kari Chisholm, a Democratic political consultant based in Portland who writes for the blog. “The late breaking undecideds are going to Alley, so you’ll probably see erosion as they count the rest of the ballots.”

In the 1st District GOP House primary, the Washington County suburbs are the ones to watch in the contest to choose a Republican nominee against Democratic Rep. David Wu.

The National Republican Congressional Committee likes businessman Rob Cornilles, a contender in its Young Guns program, but he faces a challenger who has closely identified with the tea party movement: John Kuzmanich.

“The primary will tell us whether the tea party has legs or not,” said Jim Moore, a political scientist at Pacific University in Oregon who has been watching the race. “Main Street in Oregon is not paying attention to the tea party if Washington County backs Cornilles [strongly].”

In just a few short days on the 22nd, we will know if Charles Djou has caused an upset in District 1, Hawaii.

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