Discuss as:

First thoughts: Primary eve

Primary eve for Super Senate Tuesday… Lincoln stuck in the high 40s… McConnell essentially conceded that Paul will win tomorrow, while Conway vs. Mongiardo is too close to call… It's also too close to call in Specter vs. Sestak (new Q-poll has them essentially tied) and in Critz vs. Burns… Three questions about tomorrow that few are asking… Looking at the Dems' own intra-party brawls… NRSC memo says Lincoln/Specter losses would reflect poorly on Obama White House… Kyl says filibuster against Kagan is unlikely… Some progress in the Gulf… Biden will be in Pennsylvania -- but not for Specter… And McCain shakes up his campaign team.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Primary Eve: The day before Super Senate Tuesday, here's what we know: In Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln is stuck around in the high 40s in tracking, but needs to surpass 50% to avoid a run-off (which seems unlikely today)… In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all but admitted that his candidate, Trey Grayson, is going to fall short ("I'm optimistic that whoever wins the primary will be the next senator from Kentucky," he said on "Meet the Press"), while the Dem race between Jack Conway and Dan Mongiardo is too close to call… In Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak is no longer surging and Arlen Specter is no longer falling (the latest Quinnipiac poll has Sestak at 42% among likely primary voters and Specter is at 41%, but are 16% really undecided and does that portend a low turnout tomorrow? Specter needs more casual voters to turn out, i.e. a higher turnout)… And in the Pennsylvania special congressional election to replace Jack Murtha (D), the race between Mark Critz (D) and Tim Burns (R) is neck-and-neck.

*** Three questions we have: With 24 hours to go, here are three questions few are asking. One, what is organized labor (AFL-CIO and SEIU) getting for all the money it's throwing into the Arkansas race for Halter? Will it end up with a wounded Lincoln, who will lose to a Republican? Or will you end up with Halter, who might vote similarly to Pryor and Lincoln, or who might be as wounded and lose in the fall, too? (AFL spokesman Eddie Vale tells First Read, "When Trumka ran for president, he said was going to hold politicians accountable and only support candidates who support working families… From now on, when we say just because you have a 'D' next to your name you don't automatically get our support, everyone certainly knows that we mean it.") Two, are we about to see two candidates who don't use a traditional campaign apparatus -- Paul and Sestak -- win, and will that make some D.C.-based consultants a bit nervous? And three, in this anti-incumbent environment, do Democrats have a better chance in the fall with the relatively blank-slate candidates (Halter, Sestak, Conway), versus the ones with more of a record (Lincoln, Specter, and Mongiardo)?

*** The Dem intra-party brawls: For the last several months, we've paid plenty of attention to the GOP's ideological fights in Florida, Kentucky and Utah, and deservedly so (because those fights might very well give Democrats even-odds chances at winning two or those three Senate contests, if you count Crist as a potential "Dem" vote). But this week, the Democrats' own intra-party brawls will be on display. On Tuesday, there's the Specter-Sestak primary in Pennsylvania and the Lincoln-Halter primary in Arkansas, as well as the Case-Hanabusa fight on Saturday in Hawaii that seems likely to tip that special congressional election to the Republicans. Yet unlike the GOP's primary battles, where ideology is the driving force -- are Charlie Crist and Bob Bennett conservative enough? Is Trey Grayson too tied to the political establishment? -- the only truly ideological fight for Democrats is the Lincoln-Halter primary, where organized labor and the internet left is trying to take down Lincoln, a la Lieberman in '06. 

*** NRSC says Arkansas and Pennsylvania could reflect poorly on the White House: The National Republican Senatorial Committee today is seizing on the fact that the Democratic senators the White House is backing could very well lose (in Specter's case) or be forced into a run-off (in Lincoln's case). "At best the White House political operation will narrowly win two Democratic primaries tomorrow, at worst they lost both after being heavily involved at the outset," NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer says in a memo the committee will release later today. "It should raise serious questions in the minds of Democratic Senate candidates whether the president and the Democrats' Washington agenda will be a benefit or a detriment to their campaigns this November." Of course, Democrats might argue that the candidates backed by the NRSC, Mitch McConnell, and Mitt Romney -- Charlie Crist, Trey Grayson, and Bob Bennett -- haven't fared that well, either. NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh responds, "The point Jesmer is making though is that for all of the hype given to OFA and the idea that Obama was a transformative figure who's own political success would translate into success for other Democrats has not proven to be true."

*** No last-minute White House help: It's worth noting, by the way, that the Specter campaign was indeed hoping for a last-minute visit by the president to help fire up base voters. It didn't happen. And to add insult to injury, the president is traveling TOMORROW, on Election Day, and he's literally FLYING OVER Pennsylvania to stump in Youngstown, OH, a town JUST ACROSS the border.

*** Filibuster unlikely for Kagan: With everything else going on right now -- the oil spill, tomorrow's Super Senate Tuesday contests -- the Kagan story is having a hard time competing with all the other news out there. And now the GOP says it's not interested in trying to filibuster Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court, which, if true, would assure her confirmation. "The filibuster should be relegated to the extreme circumstances, and I don't think Elena Kagan represents that," GOP Sen. Jon Kyl said yesterday. It seems the GOP has decided it can do some good base politics with Kagan with the military issue and simply stand down on the rest of the SCOTUS debate.

*** Some progress in the Gulf: Speaking of the oil spill, the first sign of progress containing it occurred yesterday when BP "inserted a tube into a leaking pipe and began siphoning some of the oil to a drilling rig at the surface," the Washington Post says. "The deep-sea plumbing did not do anything to close the well, and a substantial amount of oil continues to leak at the bottom of the gulf, but the day's efforts were a rare bulletin of good news about 3 1/2 weeks into the crisis." Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano today testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affair Committee on the administration's response to the oil spill. Lots of questions about what the administration should NOW being doing. White House adviser Carol Browner will be on "Daily Rundown" to talk about the administration's response.

*** Obama's day: At 1:05 pm ET, President Obama welcomes the NCAA champion University of Connecticut women's basketball team to the White House. And Vice President Biden this evening delivers remarks at the commencement ceremony of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. (And although he's in Pennsylvania, he won't be doing any final campaigning for Specter.) And later this week, there's a CHANCE, a chance, the Iran-sanctions action could move at the United Nations. We'll see; we've had these false alarms before.

*** More midterm news:  In Arizona, "John McCain's campaign manager Shiree Verdone and part-time deputy campaign manager Mike Hellon are both leaving their posts," Politico writes… And in Florida, this was a really bad weekend for Kendrick Meek. If he has more of these, will we see the White House begin to back away a bit from the candidate?

Countdown to AR, KY, OR and PA primaries, and PA-12 special: 1 day
Countdown to HI special election: 5 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 169 days

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter