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Gary Younge
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Yesterday's slew of primary results from several states should give little comfort to either of the party hierarchies. For while the anti-incumbent mood claimed few scalps it made most sweat and rendered contests that should have been safe highly contestable.

The Republican establishment were relieved at incumbent Lincoln Chafee's victory in Rhode Island where he staved off an insurgent challenge from conservative Steve Laffey. To achieve just this eight-point margin of victory against their own supporters the Republican National Committee had to pour more than $1m and a huge investment in personnel and political capital. In truth this really gives them the ability to fight another day. Laffey's primary victory would have doomed their prospects in November; Chafee's win just means they are in with a shot at keeping the seat.

Meanwhile in Arizona's eighth district the Republican establishment's bid to keep ultra-conservative minuteman Randy Graf in an open seat failed, making this formerly Republican seat far more vulnerable to Democrats.

Meanwhile the Democratic primaries showed that while Ned Lamont's victory against Joseph Lieberman would not be replicated elsewhere, the party would still have to grapple with its base's ambivalence towards its congressional performance if it wants to enthuse and mobilise them to the polls in great numbers come November.

Given the imbalance in funding and name recognition it is little surprise that Hillary Clinton trounced anti-war challenger John Tasini by more than 60%. But races elsewhere suggested that a sizeable and strident anti-war constituency was making itself felt even if it could not always win. In other close races John Sarbanes of Maryland, Yvette Clark of New York and Keith Ellison - all vocal critics of the war - won their primaries in tough challenges. Ellison is now poised to become the first Muslim Congressman. Vote-counting hitches in Maryland have still delayed most verdicts but anti-war candidate Donna Edwards who entered the race way too late to be viable was losing only narrowly to incumbent Albert Wynn.

One certain outcome of these primaries is that they will certainly provide some backbone to the Democrats in the House. Whether these new voices will make themselves heard from the opposition benches or the majority remains an open question.

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Stranger in a Strange Land – Encounters in the Disunited States
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'It often takes an outsider to look inside. This is especially true of the United States.'
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