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Hope for Obama as ally wins in Arkansas primary

The angry tide that has already felled two high-profile members of the US Senate this midterm election season may have been checked at least for now after Senator Blanche Lincoln, a centrist Democrat in Arkansas, narrowly fended off a challenge from a more left-wing contender in a keenly anticipated primary contest.

On the busiest night of primary races so far this year, the survival of Ms Lincoln offered a glimmer of decent news to President Barack Obama, who knows that the midterms, involving all of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate, could see a routing of his party by resurgent Republicans.

In a sign of the strength of the Tea Party movement, its favoured runner won the Republican contest for the right to challenge Senate Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada in November. Sharron Angle's victory may actually be an encouraging development for Mr Reid, however, because her extreme views may scare away most independents in the state. She would, for instance, seek to scrap several arms of the federal government.

Above all, however, it was a night for female candidates. In spite of a series of vicious personal attacks against her, Nikki Haley led a field of runners to become the next governor of South Carolina. She still faces a run-off after falling just short of 50 per cent of the vote. Meanwhile in California, Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was nominated by Republicans to take on the incumbent senator Barbara Boxer in November.