Primary Results Examined

Votes are being cast and counted across 12 states, as candidates are chosen for the fall. In Arkansas, Democratic incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln is facing a stiff challenge for her seat from Bill Halter. And in South Carolina, the field of candidates for governor is narrowing down.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Votes are being cast and counted across 12 states this evening, as candidates are chosen for the fall. California and Nevada are picking challengers for key Senate races. In Arkansas, Democratic incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln is facing a stiff challenge for her seat from Bill Halter. Right now, that race is too close to call. And in South Carolina, the field of candidates for governor is narrowing down. The Republicans appeared to be headed for a runoff.

Joining me is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. And Mara, if there is a runoff in South Carolina, who would be in it?

MARA LIASSON: Nikki Haley, who is the front-runner, she looks like she might just fall short of the 50 percent she needs to avoid a runoff. She's state representative. She'll be in it, so will another state representative named Gresham Barrett.

Nikki Haley has been the subject of two accusations of extramarital affairs, by two different people. She also has been a victim of a racial slur. This has been quite an ugly, crazy South Carolina primary. It looks like she's headed to a runoff. She has been endorsed by Sarah Palin, and she has been the front-runner all along. But those two state representatives will be in the runoff if this trend holds.

SIEGEL: And what's the conventional wisdom here? Would it be easier for her running against one other Republican than running against three other Republicans?

LIASSON: Well, I think she is the favorite. The conventional wisdom is, is that she's the favorite, she is the one who is expected to win. I think that it's probably easier for her to run against Gresham Barrett.

And it's interesting, he hasn't been involved at all in any of these accusations, where the other candidate in the race, Andre Bauer - a former staff member of his - is one of the people who made one of the accusations against Haley.

SIEGEL: Now, once again, it's far too early in the evening to talk about what's happened today, either in Nevada or obviously, in California. But what else of note has happened today, that you've seen?

LIASSON: Well, a couple of things. We know that the Republican representative in the 4th District of South Carolina, Bob Inglis, looks like he's losing to Trey Gowdy, who is a Tea Party-backed candidate who questioned Inglis' conservative credentials. Inglis did vote for the bailout. He's talked a lot about civility. Although he is a conservative Republican, he even, at one point, told conservatives to stop listening to Glenn Beck, and he got himself in a lot of trouble. And he looks like he is the next incumbent who might be defeated tonight.

What we also know is in the 5th District of Virginia, the Republicans have nominated Robert Hurt to run against Tom Periello, who is considered one of the most endangered Democrats this year. He represents a conservative district in Virginia. However, he voted for cap and trade; he voted for the health-care plan and the stimulus bill and the bailout. So he's considered to be in a lot of trouble.

We also have a result in Georgia...

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

LIASSON: ...in the district of Nathan Deal, who left to run for governor. A Tea Party candidate there, Tom Graves, has won a special election. So he's actually...

SIEGEL: Not a primary.

LIASSON: ...a representative now. Not a primary, although he'll have to stand again in November.

SIEGEL: OK. NPR's Mara Liasson, thank you.

LIASSON: Thank you.

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