On Tuesday, May 18, there are three highly contested Democratic primaries for US Senate seats: Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Arkansas. In each race, the more left-leaning Democratic candidate is currently polling as the most electable.

In Kentucky, Jack Conway, not a raging progressive but at least a supporter of much of the Democratic platform leads his ultra-conservative primary opponent, Dan Mongiardo. According to recent PPP and DailyKos/Research 2000 polls, Conway is polling better against likely Republican nominee Rand Paul than does Mongiardo.

PPP (May 1-2)
Paul 42%- Mongiardo 38%
Paul 41% – Conway 40%

DailyKos/Reseach 2000 (May 10-12)
Paul 43% – Mongiardo 38%
Paul 42% – Conway 39%

In Pennsylvania, Rep. Joe Sestak (PA-7) is challenging long-term Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter. In head-to-head matchups against Republican Pat Toomey, Sestak is narrowly out-performing Specter.

Quinnipiac (May 4-10)
Toomey 47% – Specter 40%
Toomey 42% – Sestak 40%

Rasmussen (May 6)
Toomey 50% – Specter 38%
Toomey 42% – Sestak 40%

The pattern continues in Arkansas where Bill Halter is challenging conservative Democrat Blanche Lincoln. Rep. John Boozman has a commanding lead in the Republican primary field and is the likely GOP nominee. Against Boozman, Halter is polling slightly better than Lincoln.

DailyKos/Reseach 2000 (May 10-12)
Boozman 54% – Lincoln 40%
Boozman 50% – Halter 41%

In each of the three primaries, the more progressive candidate currently has en edge. This might be an anti-incumbent effect against Specter and Lincoln, but does not explain Conway in Kentucky. The strategy of running right-leaning candidates in a tough year for Democrats just does not translate into being more electable.

It looks as if, given the choice between a real Republican or a Republican-lite fake, many voters will just choose the real thing.