June 8 primaries: Races to watch

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By Chris Cillizza and Karen Yourish

Several high-profile contests are in play Tuesday as voters in 12 states head to the polls to decide the fate of a two-term senator from Arkansas and a six-term South Carolina congressman, among others. A look at the key races:

Arkansas Senate

U.S. Senate runoff in Arkansas

Blanche Lincoln is hoping to avoid becoming the third sitting senator to lose an intraparty fight this year, but even her closest allies acknowledge that her Democratic runoff race against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is a tossup.

Three weeks ago, Lincoln got 44.5 percent of the vote to Halter's 42.5 percent in the Democratic primary. A third candidate in that race, conservative D.C. Morrison, won 13 percent, forcing Lincoln and Halter into Tuesday's runoff.

Much like the primary, the runoff has pitted Lincoln and her supporters within the Democratic establishment -- former president Bill Clinton has campaigned for her and she has been endorsed by President Obama -- against organized labor, which has dumped millions of dollars into ads and voter identification programs on Halter's behalf.


California Republican Senate primary

Former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina appears to have pulled away from former congressman Tom Campbell in the final weeks of the race for the Republican Senate nomination, relying on personal wealth to fund ads and on an endorsement from ex-Alaska governor Sarah Palin to build momentum.

Campbell, who switched from the governor's race earlier this year, long held the lead thanks to residual name identification from his unsuccessful 1992 and 2000 Senate runs. A third candidate, state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, is running as the true conservative in the race but has gained little traction.

Fiorina's campaign launched an ad last week taking on Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) -- an early general election jab.


Nevada Republican Senate primary

The Republican race for the right to challenge embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D) could go in a number of directions Tuesday.

Former state assemblywoman Sharron Angle enters primary day as the slight front-runner, due in part to significant expenditures from the Club for Growth -- among other conservative third-party groups -- on her behalf.

But former state party chairman Sue Lowden, who hamstrung her once-front-running campaign by suggesting a barter system for health care, remains in the game because of her considerable personal spending. And then there is businessman Danny Tarkanian, who has hung around as Angle has risen and Lowden has fallen. He is the son of Jerry Tarkanian, the former UNLV men's basketball coach.


California Republican gubernatorial race

Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman's first foray into electoral politics has been a roller-coaster ride.

Whitman began her run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination as an unknown but quickly changed that by spending tens of millions of dollars on her campaign. That money paid for ads making the case to Californians that putting a businesswoman in the governor's office was the best -- only? -- solution to the state's fiscal problems.

Then came a series of attack ads from state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner (R) that painted Whitman as liberal on immigration. Whitman's poll numbers plummeted -- until she turned her focus to shoring up her ideological right flank on the issue.

That mission accomplished, Whitman's polls began to recover and now most neutral observers expect her to cruise to victory over Poizner on Tuesday.


Republican race for South Carolina governor

The GOP race to replace scandal-tainted Mark Sanford has turned into a sideshow, with state Rep. Nikki Haley surging in polls even as several men have alleged having affairs with her. She has denied any infidelity.

Haley is widely expected to advance to a June 22 runoff -- a near certainty with no candidate expected to win 50 percent.

Rep. J. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster are also seeking the GOP nod.

House Races

South Carolina District 1
Republican primary: Paul Thurmond vs. Carroll Campbell III vs. Tim Scott

The offspring of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond and the late Gov. Carroll Campbell could be edged out by Tim Scott, the first black GOP state representative since Reconstruction.

Virginia District 5
Republican primary: Robert Hurt vs. Ken Boyd vs. Michael McPadden

Despite challenges from several "tea party" candidates, Hurt remains the leading contender to face Democratic freshman Rep. Tom Perriello in November.

Georgia District 9
Special election runoff: Tom Graves vs. Lee Hawkins

Two Republican state lawmakers are trying to out-conservative each other to take over the seat vacated by Nathan Deal.

California District 36
Democratic primary: Rep. Jane Harman vs. Marcy Winograd

With help from former DNC chairman Howard Dean, Winograd is running to the left of Harman in a district that is solidly Democratic but dominated by the defense and aerospace industries.

Virginia District 2
Republican primary: Scott Rigell vs. Bert Mizusawa vs. Ben Loyola

Rigell is the GOP establishment favorite, a distinction that could be a liability in the race to challenge Democratic freshman Rep. Glenn Nye.

South Carolina District 4
Republican primary: Rep. Bob Inglis vs. Trey Gowdy

Inglis is trying to fend off primary challengers who have made the race a referendum on his 2008 vote to bailout the banking industry.

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