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Thailand’s Red Shirt Leaders Surrender; U.S. Voters Send Message to Incumbents

Red Shirt leaders surrender

A Red Shirt protester is detained by Thai police Wednesday inside the Red Shirt protest camp in Bangkok. Photo by Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images.

Leaders from Thailand’s Red Shirt protest movement surrendered to police Wednesday, yet that was not enough to stem the violence that has gripped central Bangkok since last week. The Thai military launched a crackdown on the remaining anti-government protesters, leaving at least five people dead and another 52 wounded.

“This is D-Day,” one soldier told the Associated Press.

Footage by the Agence France-Presse captures the Thai military taking over the Red Shirt group’s fortified encampment in Bangkok:

Protesters set fire to the country’s stock exchange, southeast Asia’s largest shopping mall and a television station as Thai troops and armed military vehicles advanced on them. The government ordered a curfew and warned citizens to stay indoors.

An Italian photojournalist was killed, while three other reporters — a Dutch, an American and a Canadian — were among scores of people injured, reports the BBC.

The BBC and the Guardian are live blogging the events in Thailand. We’ll have more on what the surrender means later today.

U.S. Voters Send Message to Incumbents

Lawmakers facing reelection this November have good reason to be nervous Wednesday morning. A wave of anti-incumbent sentiment among Pennsylvania primary voters on Tuesday helped Rep. Joe Sestak dash Sen. Arlen Specter’s bid for a sixth term in office.

With 99 percent of all votes counted, Sestak defeated Specter by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul, a favorite of the Tea Party, defeated establishment favorite Trey Grayson by a 24-point margin in the state’s Republican primary for Senate. In Arkansas, Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln fell short in her bid for a third term and must now face Lieutenant Gov. Bill Halter in a June 8 runoff.

So what’s to be made of last night’s election? Politico says:

“What’s now clear, in a way that wasn’t before, is that these results reflect a genuine national phenomenon, not simply isolated spasms in response to single issues or local circumstances … The old structures that protected incumbent power are weakening. New structures, from partisan news outlets to online social networks, are giving anti-establishment politicians access to two essential elements of effective campaigns: publicity and financial support.”

Slate’s John Dickerson writes:

“There was birth, death, and resurrection. Rand Paul was born as a national leader of the Tea Party movement. Arlen Specter’s long political career came to an end. And the Democratic Party and Blanche Lincoln were brought back from the dead.”

The White House’s political operation was a big loser, says the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, mainly because it “has yet to figure out how to operationalize the concept of an Obama Democrat.”

It was a bad night for Republicans, too, says the Economist’s Democracy in America:

“The Republicans’ biggest disappointment was not snagging Democratic seat vacated by the late John Murtha in western Pennsylvania … Indeed the Republicans seem to be finding that having encouraged the tea party, mostly made up of anti-government conservatives, the national party establishment is unable to focus its ire on Democrats properly.”

We’ll have lots more about Tuesday’s races on Wednesday’s program.

Taliban Attacks American Base

The Taliban launched an attack against one the largest and most heavily-fortified American bases in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the second attack on U.S. forces there in as many days. The brazen assault against the Bagram Air Base was quickly quelled, yet the fighting left one American contractor dead and at least 12 soldiers wounded. It followed a suicide bomb attack against a NATO convoy in Kabul on Tuesday that killed 18 people, including five Americans.

Obama to Host Mexico’s Calderon

President Barack Obama hosts Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the White House on Wednesday for the second state dinner of his presidency. Calderon arrives in Washington amid new strains between both nations over a controversial new immigration law in Arizona.

While the two leaders will reaffirm their commitment to immigration reform, President Obama has acknowledged Congress “may not have the appetite” to take up the hot-button issue anytime soon. Another topic on the agenda before Calderon’s departure on Thursday is the ongoing drug violence in Mexico, which has killed some 24,000 people since Calderon took office in December 2006.

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