Los Angeles: Democratic and Republican politicians battled against a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment with mixed results as Americans voted to pick candidates for November`s crucial midterm elections.
With President Barack Obama focusing squarely on the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill, 12 of 50 states voted to choose candidates in primaries that could set the tone for midterm polls in five months.
Seething voter anger at the sagging US economy and soaring unemployment has left politicians of all stripes fighting for survival from coast to coast.
However, the highest profile battle Tuesday -- in Arkansas`s Democratic Senate race -- saw incumbent Blanche Lincoln buck the prevailing national mood and defeat upstart challenger Bill Halter in a runoff.
Two-term US Senator Lincoln, whose campaign had enjoyed support from President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, squeezed home by a 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent margin.
Lincoln is still expected to be the underdog against her Republican rival John Boozman in November, when all of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are up for grabs.
Meanwhile California saw two former Silicon Valley highfliers comfortably win the Republican primaries for the gubernatorial and Senate races.
Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman romped home in her bid to secure the Republican nomination in the governor`s race, while former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina easily won her party`s Senate nomination.
Whitman, who spent a whopping 71 million dollars of her personal fortune on her campaign, defeated rival Steve Poizner by a margin of 65 percent to 25.8 percent, early results showed.
The 53-year-old billionaire is the first woman nominated for governor by the Golden State`s Republican Party. California has never elected a woman governor.
Whitman will seek to replace outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is stepping down this year because of term limits. Fiorina crushed her rivals after campaigning on a platform of fiscal accountability while attempting to appeal to social conservatives by emphasizing her opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
The 55-year-old will seek to unseat long-serving Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in November`s election. Nevada, meanwhile, saw Tea Party darling Sharron Angle lock up the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the conservative populists` number one target this fall.
Angle`s victory was a blow to the Republican establishment, which had backed former Nevada Republican Party chairwoman Sue Lowden. She landed a distant second, according to projections.
The Tea Party movement has demonstrated its power in some key nominating races in which the electorates are small and made up of only the most committed grassroots activists. But it remains unclear whether it will be as potent in elections with a wide-ranging electorate, where moderates, independents and Democrats all play important roles.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll indicated support for the movement was waning, with 50 percent of Americans now holding an unfavorable view of the group, up from 39 percent in March.
Angle`s victory in Nevada is seen as a boon to Reid`s re-election hopes, with a series of polls suggesting he enjoys a clear lead over the staunch conservative, whose policies include banning federal income tax.
South Carolina witnessed a brutal but inconclusive battle for the Republican gubernatorial ticket. The Sarah Palin-endorsed frontrunner Nikki Haley -- who was forced to deny repeated allegations of extra-marital affairs during the campaign -- failed to score an outright majority against her opponent.
Haley, who fell just short of the magic 50 percent mark, must now contest a runoff on June 22 against Gresham Barrett, who scored just over 21 percent. South Carolina is no stranger to controversy swirling around the governor`s mansion -- the current resident, Republican Mark Sanford, mysteriously disappeared last year, then resurfaced only to confess to an affair with a secret lover in Argentina.