WASHINGTON -- Hard pressed for good news during this election season, President Barack Obama's Democrats claim to see a silver lining in the Republicans' choice of political novices, sometimes mistake-prone, for critical Senate races.
Snubbing the GOP establishment's recruits, Republicans on Tuesday chose Ken Buck in Colorado, a county prosecutor who insulted his tea party backers and talks about significantly reducing the Education Department, and Linda McMahon in Connecticut, a former World Wrestling Entertainment executive shown on video kicking her performers in the crotch.
Those two join tea-party-preferred candidates Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sharron Angle in Nevada, campaigners who have struggled with missteps and cable-ready gaffes.
"Whatever folks say about the general atmospherics, the tea party takeover of the Republican Party is really producing real millstones for them," Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine said Wednesday.
He called Buck, McMahon, Paul and Angle "wacky" with "ideas about the role of government that are way outside of the mainstream, that are just going to be offensive to people."
That's what the Democrats hope. They argue that their experienced candidates have the upper hand in general election match-ups with these untested folks.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the head of the GOP Senate campaign committee, doesn't buy it.
"That's wishful thinking on their part," he said. "This election's going to be about jobs, spending and debt." And on those measures, Cornyn said, Democrats will lose because it is Obama's policies that are "outside of the mainstream and extreme."
He accused Democrats of trying to change the subject by tearing down GOP candidates who were nominated.
To be sure, this is no ordinary year.
An anti-establishment fervor has swept the country. Voters are down on lawmakers of all political stripes. In a June Associated Press-GfK poll, only a little more than a third of respondents said they would like to re-elect their own congressman, while more than half said they want someone else.
At a time of animosity toward Washington, is political experience really such a plus?
Out-of-power Republicans seem to have enthusiasm on their side, fueled in part by tea party activists. On Tuesday, for example, 406,588 Republicans voted in Colorado's Senate primary while 338,184 Democrats cast ballots in their contest, sobering numbers for Democrats looking ahead to November, when turnout will be critical.
As they did earlier to Paul and Angle, Democrats wasted little time Wednesday in portraying McMahon and Buck as extreme.
Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who leads the Senate Democrats' campaign effort, disparaged McMahon as "a corporate CEO" who "built an empire peddling violent, sexually explicit material that glorified the exploitation of women and the mentally disabled."
In turn, Cornyn called McMahon a self-made businesswoman and a "political outsider with a fresh perspective." He castigated Democratic state attorney general and rival Richard Blumenthal as a "career politician."
Democrats insist that because of the candidates the Republicans are nominating, Obama's party now has an excellent chance to hold onto or, in the case of GOP-held Kentucky, pick up seats that were considered in jeopardy or out of reach at the start of the year.
But polls in Kentucky show Paul comfortably leading state Attorney General Jack Conway to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Jim Bunning.
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