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Will Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter survive Tuesday's primaries?

Anti-incumbent sentiment could be pivotal in Tuesday’s votes. Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter, both Democratic senators, are facing tough challenges from the left.

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Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) is interviewed outside the Crittenden County Court House in Marion, Ark., Monday. In Arkansas, Lincoln is facing a tough primary challenge from the left.

Danny Johnston/AP

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Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s primary elections, this year’s outlook for many US congressional incumbents can be summed up in one word: peril.

How bad is it? This bad: Only about 20 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, according to a Gallup poll released May 14.

Independent voters are even more scathing in their judgment than are voters overall. Only 13 percent of this swing group rate Congress favorably, according to Gallup.

But it’s easy to disapprove of Capitol Hill in general. What about voters’ attitudes toward their own members of Congress? That’s a measure that is usually more positive. It’s tougher to be negative about someone whose face you know – and whose efforts to land federal funds have probably been covered in local media.

Well, maybe that individual approval rating usually is sunnier, but this year, it’s not. In April, another Gallup survey found only 49 percent of voters in favor of reelecting their own member of Congress.

“This marks only the second time since Gallup began asking this question in 1992 that the figure has dipped below 50 percent, and the first on the doorstep of a midterm election,” wrote Gallup researcher Lydia Saad in an analysis of the poll data.

Anti-incumbent sentiment could be pivotal in Tuesday’s votes. In Arkansas, for instance, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) is facing a tough primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. Senator Lincoln has been criticized by liberals for being unsupportive of the White House, among other things. Liberal groups have poured cash and volunteers into Mr. Halter’s campaign.

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