Four-term Arizona Senator John McCain has turned back a conservative challenge to secure the Republican party's nomination to run for a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. Voters in five American states selected candidates in party polls on Tuesday. The nominees are now turning their attention to the mid-term election, 70 days from now, which could change the balance of power in Washington.
John McCain won a decisive victory over former Republican representative J. D. Hayworth, a conservative radio talk-show host, after McCain shifted to the right in the campaign, adopting a tough stand on the controversial issue of illegal immigration.
Celebrating his win Tuesday night, McCain -- the 2008 Republican presidential candidate -- promised to work against tax increases and for repeal of President Obama's health care plan. McCain says he is not taking November's mid-term election for granted, but he predicts a shift in Congress, where Mr. Obama's Democratic Party now controls both houses. The entire House of Representatives is up for reelection, and one third of the Senate.
"I am convinced that Republicans will win in November and we will regain our majority in both the Senate and the House," McCain said.
In Alaska, early in the vote count, Senator Lisa Murkowski was behind in a tight race against conservative activist Joe Miller. Miller was endorsed by former Alaska governor and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Both McCain and Murkowski were thought to be vulnerable to the so-called "Tea Party" insurgency, an informal grassroots conservative movement that derailed some mainstream Republicans in earlier primaries.
But activists had some successes in Tuesday's polls. Conservative challenger Rick Scott won the Republican nomination in the Florida governor's race. A wealthy former health care executive, Scott defeated the state's attorney general, Bill McCollum, after Scott spent $50 million of his own money in the campaign.
In the Florida senate race, Democrat Kendrick Meek earned his party's nomination, defeating billionaire businessman Jeff Greene. Greene also spent millions of his own money for campaign ads. Meek will face Florida governor Charlie Christ, who is running as an independent after losing support within the Republican party to conservative challenger Marco Rubio. Rubio won the Republican nomination for the Florida senate seat and says the midterm election will a referendum on Washington politics.
"Right now, the United States of America is headed in the wrong direction. And, let's be frank. Both parties are to blame. Washington is broken," Rubio said.
With national unemployment approaching 10 percent, polls show that voters rank the economy as their major concern. The populist conservative movement is expected to be a force in November, and President Obama and the Democrats hope to limit their losses.
Many incumbents could face tough challenges. In Nevada, for example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will square off against Sharon Angle, a favorite of conservative activists.