With about six months before the general election, the White House, Senate and House all seem to be in play, suggesting candidates who avoid miscues, solidify their party base and win over independents will rule, once the dust settles.
Polls show the race between President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney as a dead heat, with Obama ahead or with Romney on top. RealClearPolitics.com's average of eight polls indicated Obama was up by 1.8 percentage points over Romney.
The domino effect of redistricting has been felt by several congressional candidates, some of whom either lost primaries or face difficult re-election prospects, The Hill reported recently.
And the primary season is winding down while the state caucus convention calendar is filling up. On Tuesday, voters in Arkansas, with 35 delegates, and Kentucky, with 46 delegates, head to the polls.
As of Wednesday, RealClearPolitics.com's delegate count indicates Romney has 989 delegates. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who left the campaign trail in April, have 264 and 141 delegates, respectively. Ron Paul, who announced he would no longer actively work the campaign trail but focus on state delegate conventions, has 104 delegates.
A candidate needs 1,144 to win the nomination during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August.
Friction among factions within the Republican Party are rising to surface in the 4th Congressional District that has been billed as a battle between the old and the new iterations of Republicans, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal reported.
"This race could be seen as a contest between the GOP old guard and the Tea Party Republicans, considering how the endorsements have been lining up," said Michael Baranowski, a political science professor at Northern Kentucky University.
Retiring U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis and former U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning announced they support state Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington, 45.
Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore, 54, has GOP establishment cash backing his election bid.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, the presidential candidate's son, cut a television ad for Lewis County Judge-Executive Thomas Massie, a favorite of the Tea Party.
"I wouldn't be too surprised if a split in the establishment vote ends up getting Massie the election," said Baronowski, who believes the race is among those three of the seven candidates running.
The Republican primary winner will face the winner of a Democratic primary between Grant County lawyer Bill Adkins and Greg Frank of Corinth.
Massie, Moore and Webb-Edgington have raised the most money and have the strongest bases of support.
Both Moore and Webb-Edgington have joined others in jumping on Massie, particularly after a Liberty For All, a Texas-based independent group that supports candidates with libertarian leanings.
"It appears to me that we have an out-of-state group that is trying to buy our 4th District Republican seat with Libertarian money." Kevin Sell, the district's GOP chairman, said. "This seat has been recently held by two great Americans: Jim Bunning and Geoff Davis. Neither of these fine men were libertarians. If the libertarians want this seat, they should have someone run as a libertarian."
In the 6th Congressional District, Lexington, Ky., attorney Andy Barr hopes he gets a second chance to upend U.S. Rep Ben Chandler, but first he must best two challengers in Tuesday's Republican primaries.
Both are political novices: Lexington software engineer and entrepreneur Patrick Kelly II and Bourbon County horse farmer Curtis Kenimer.
Neither Kelly nor Kenimer reported to the Federal Election Commission raising any campaign money, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported, putting them at a huge disadvantage to Barr, who reported raising $615,726 as of March 31, with $470,827 cash on hand.
Chandler, who defeated Barr by 647 votes in 2010, is unopposed in this spring's Democratic primary election.
Kenimer, 61, puts his odds of winning the GOP primary at 99-1, but said he's the only candidate from a rural area, "which may help me, along with the fact that I have no desire to be a career politician and will be less susceptible to good old boys."
Kenimer said Chandler's vote for the cap-and-trade measure meant to reduce greenhouse emissions ensured "that I would run against him someday."
Barr said the issue will be "front and center" in the fall race.
Kelly, 26, said his work on Rand Paul's successful Senate campaign gave him a chance to meet a lot of people.
"Also, many people know that Barr can't beat Chandler, so I expect they will give me a chance," Kelly said.
Soon after watching Democratic presidential candidate Keith Judd -- serving time in a federal prison in Texas -- pick up 42 percent of the West Virginia primary vote this month, President Obama could experience a similarly competitive primary in the 4th Congressional District in Arkansas.
A recent Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll indicated 38 percent of Democratic primary voters in the district said they were voting for John Wolfe, a Tennessee attorney who qualified for the Arkansas Democratic primary Tuesday.
Just 45 percent of poll participants said they back Obama.
Seventeen percent said they were undecided.
The poll, taken a day after Obama announced his support of same-sex marriage, reaffirms Obama never polled well in rural Arkansas, TalkBusiness.com said.
Forty-six percent of 4th District Democrats identified themselves as conservative, 33 percent said they were moderate and 21 percent said they were liberal or progressive, the poll said.
Dr. Jay Barth, a faculty member with Hendrix College's Department of Politics and International Relations, said conservative Democrats broke against Obama and plan to use the primary to express their disapproval.
"Clearly, as Wolfe is an unknown candidate, the votes for him are in opposition to the president," Barth said. "Most of these [conservative] voters will never vote for the president in November, but they get an early opportunity to voice their opposition now."
Voters who have already gone to the polls swung more solidly for the president so Obama's showing may not be quite as poor as indicated by the poll's aggregate results, Barth said.
"However, the results from Arkansas -- based on our polling in the 4th and 1st districts -- indicate that the Arkansas primary may produce a somewhat embarrassing result for the president," he said.
The Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll showed Obama polling ahead of Wolfe, 65 percent to 24 percent, in the culturally conservative 1st Congressional District of Arkansas. Slightly more than 40 percent of Democrats in the 1st District identified themselves as conservative.
On the Republican side, presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney picked up 59 percent in the 4th District poll while Rick Santorum, who dropped out April 10, polled 15 percent.
"No surprise is shown on the Republican side as the presumptive nominee Romney is on his way to a comfortable victory in the GOP primary in the 4th Congressional District," Barth said. "While other candidates might have done well in the state in the most heated period in the nomination campaign, party loyalists are now lining up behind the nominee."
In several state House of Representatives races, the outcome may be decided soon after Tuesday's primary ends, KHBS-KHOG, Fort Smith-Fayetteville, Ark., said.
"There're very few contested races in a May primary: this is one. You're going to pick your House member in certain parts of this region. You're going to pick your senator. It will all be done when you're done with this vote," said Mat Pitsch, a Republican candidate for Arkansas' District 76, said during a recent forum in Fort Smith.
Fellow GOP candidate Denny Altes said he was told by experts that early voting percentages will be "almost exactly identical to the final outcome."
"It's very important," Altes said.