It's primary day and all eyes are on the tea party and whether they'll bolster or hurt Republicans' chances to take over the U.S. Senate.

As the AP reported:

Several tea party-endorsed candidates are struggling in Tuesday's Republican congressional primaries in Georgia, Kentucky and Idaho. In each state, however, the "establishment" Republican candidates have emphasized their conservative credentials, which narrows the party's philosophical differences.

Republicans need to gain six Senate seats to control the chamber. Holding Kentucky and Georgia against well-funded Democrats, both women, is crucial to their hopes.

Six states hold primaries Tuesday. Georgia, Kentucky and Oregon have closely watched Republican contests for Senate. Pennsylvania and Arkansas have feisty gubernatorial primaries.

In Idaho, tea party-backed lawyer Bryan Smith is trying to oust Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, who's seeking a ninth House term.

In Kentucky, tea partyers would love to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a 30-year senator they see as too accommodating to Democrats. But challenger Matt Bevin has struggled under a barrage of attacks from McConnell and his allies.

A New York Times analysis puts it succinctly. Sen. Mitch McConnell's race is likley to get the most media coverage and, while he's expected to win, his margin of victory will be scrutinized.

"If Mr. McConnell dispatches Mr. Bevin by more than a two-to-one margin, the conversation will turn to the continued weakness of the Tea Party. If Mr. Bevin approaches or exceeds 40 percent, as suggested by a recent SurveyUSA poll, it might be heralded as an indication of Mr. McConnell's weakness heading into the general election against Alison Lundergan Grimes, the likely Democratic candidate."


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