- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2010

The political outsider sentiment that fueled Tuesday’s primary contests in Kentucky and Pennsylvania now will play out in November general election races in which candidates will be compelled to address a wider range of voters and issues, political analysts said.

In Kentucky, Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul used his anti-establishment platform and backing from the “tea party” movement to trounce Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the favorite of the state’s GOP establishment.

Dr. Paul, an eye surgeon and son of Texas GOP Rep. Ron Paul, leads in the polls, but now faces questions of how well his platform - which includes immediately balancing the federal budget and eliminating farm subsidies - will play in the race against Democratic nominee Jack Conway.

The Democrats’ best hope, many think, is attacking the GOP candidate, who is running in his first race for elective office.

“For Jack to win, he has to make the election about Rand Paul and his views, which are out of the mainstream of political thought,” said David Heller, a Democratic political strategist and president of Main Street Communications, a political consulting firm. “He needs to strip the bark off Rand Paul and expose his crazy ideas for what they are.”

Still, Mr. Heller acknowledged Mr. Conway faces a tough race in a state that voted for Republican in the past three presidential elections, including giving 57.5 percent of the vote to 2008 GOP candidate Sen. John McCain in 2008.

The most recent Rasmussen Report poll, taken in late April, shows Mr. Paul with 47 percent of the vote, compared to 38 percent for Mr. Conway, the state’s attorney general, in a head-to-head matchup.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said he welcomed the race between Mr. Paul and Mr. Conway, who narrowly defeated Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo in the Democratic primary.

“Rand Paul’s positions fail to resonate beyond the far-right Republican segment of the electorate that supported him,” he said Wednesday.

Mr. Paul moved quickly to unite the Kentucky Republican ranks, reaching out to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who openly backed his opponent in the primary. With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans in the state, he also said he hopes to draw support from the state’s independent voters as well.

He argued the fiscally conservative tea party message is popular “well outside” the Republican Party.

“The tea party message is not a radical message,” he added. “It’s not an extreme message. What is extreme is a $2 trillion deficit.”

In Pennsylvania, Democratic primary winner Rep. Joe Sestak cannot match Mr. Paul’s outsider credentials, having served two terms in Congress. But he claimed his anti-establishment status by defeating five-term Sen. Arlen Specter on Tuesday, pursuing his primary challenge despite backing for Mr. Specter, a former Republican, from President Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Edward G. Rendell.

But Republicans, who formally nominated ex-Rep. Pat Toomey for the Senate race Tuesday, aren’t buying Mr. Sestak as an anti-Washington insurgent.

“That ‘outside’ thing is a myth,” said Republican political strategist Elliott Curson. “Mr. Sestak will now have to pick his issues, whatever they may be.”

Still, Mr. Curson thinks Mr. Sestak is a better Democratic candidate against Mr. Toomey than Mr. Specter would have been in this Democrat-leaning state.

Mr. Toomey has 42 percent of the vote, compared to 40 percent for Mr. Sestak, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll on May 6.

“Republicans would have been out to kill Mr. Specter,” Mr. Curson said. “They don’t have the burning desire to do that to Mr. Sestak.”

Toomey spokesman Tim Kelly said this campaign will be much different than the one his team planned against Mr. Specter.

“This will be a race about ideas,” he said. “We cannot borrow and spend our way to prosperity. Joe Sestak has been talking like a fiscal conservative, but look at his liberal positions on Wall Street, bank bailouts. … It’s tough to defend those votes and numbers in this political climate.”

c This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Joseph Weber can be reached at jweber@washingtontimes.com.old.

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