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More factors in play than simply ‘throw the bums out’

SHARE More factors in play than simply ‘throw the bums out’

There is no doubt voters in several states this week were stoked by a "throw the bums out" mentality. But there's ample evidence being overlooked by much of the mainstream media that other factors were in play during Tuesday's primary voting.

Rand Paul's Senate nomination running as a tea party candidate in Kentucky sent the clearest signal that voters in that Southern, conservative state are fed up with politics as usual and want changes in Washington.

Paul, who could become the first tea party candidate to go to Washington if he wins in November, said on "Good Morning America" Wednesday that his victory represents a rejection of the way both parties have handled the nation's fiscal policies.

"When (Republicans) were in charge, we doubled the deficit, and now with Democrats in charge, they're tripling the deficit," Paul said. "What the tea party says is there's bipartisan blame to go around for the deficit and we have to do a better job."

But that case is much harder to make in Arkansas and Pennsylvania where incumbents came equipped with a whole different set of baggage. In Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter's loss in the Democratic primary had more to do with his history of party switching than anything else. Pennsylvanians went to the polls in dismally low numbers, suggesting little affection for Specter or the other choices before them. Specter started his political life as a Democrat, then switched over to the GOP and back to the Democratic side of the aisle last year to vote for health care reform. If you read online comments about his loss of the Democratic nomination, his constituents talk more about a lack of trust of Specter in particular, than they do about throwing him out for the sake of change.

Specter's loss was not a "throw the bums out" vote but more of a "throw out this bum in particular" vote because he had danced across party aisles one too many times. Repetitive party switches made Specter look opportunistic and more concerned about his own re-election than anything else. Other politicians have successfully pulled off a one-time party change, but Specter's loss proves it's a whole lot tougher to change and change back than it is to change once for good reason and be done with it.

In Arkansas, there was little of the "throw the bums out" mood but more of the "why didn't you support health care reform, Sen. Lincoln?" mood. Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln barely won her Democratic Party nomination (she tied with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, each of whom won about 43 percent of the vote.) She now must face Halter, an outspoken progressive, in a June runoff. If Arkansas Democrats wanted change in Washington, they would not have voted in such great percentages for a more liberal Democrat.

Halter is the political opposite of Kentucky's Rand Paul. Instead of campaigning to lower taxes, Halter attacked Lincoln for not voting to spend enough money on social programs. That approach would not change things in Washington one bit.

The only true anti-tax candidate in that primary was Little Rock businessman D.C. Morrison. He supported a repeal of the Democratic health care law, the estate tax and the federal income tax. If Morrison had garnered more support, it would have been much easier to make the case that Arkansans were in "throw the bums out" mode.

All of this is not to say the November mid-term elections won't be tough on the party in power in Congress and the White House. Of course they will. But I am saying when one examines Tuesday's results closely, there's much more at issue.

Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe@CompuServe.com