The anti-incumbent sentiment accelerated the momentum among newcomers in ousting established lawmakers in Congress. At the same time, from California to Georgia, it pitted party members against each other, exposing the ideological frays within each party.
Tea Party favorite Nikki Haley nabbed a majority of votes in the South Carolina GOP gubernatorial primary, but stopped just shy of the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff, according to the Associated Press. Nevertheless, the South Carolina primary dealt a blow to the GOP establishment in the state: Both Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and attorney general Henry McMaster, once considered frontrunners in the race, trailed well behind Haley and conservative Rep. Gresham Barrett.
Haley and Barrett will face off again in a runoff election two weeks from today.
The divisive South Carolina gubernatorial primary was dogged by ethnic slurs -- a GOP state senator called Indian-American Haley a "raghead" -- and allegations of marital infidelity.
But Haley's popularity has risen in recent weeks, thanks to endorsements from the Tea Party in general, and Sarah Palin in particular. The former Alaska governor campaigned with Haley and recorded a telephone message calling the allegations against Haley "made-up nonsense."
Tea Party supporters also nabbed a victory in the contested runoff in Georgia, where former state representative Tom Graves defeated former state House member Lee Hawkins in a special election for the U.S. House of Representatives. Graves was backed by the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots and the conservative Club for Growth.
Still, in another key battleground -- Virginia's fifth Congressional district -- the Republican establishment's candidate Robert Hurt flew to an easy victory with 48.4 percent of the votes.
Ex-Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina defeated Rep. Tom Campbell and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore in the race to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in November.
Fiorina, as with Haley in South Carolina, received an unexpected endorsement from Palin even though DeVore has been supported by Tea Party groups.
Palin recorded a telephone message for Fiorina, urging voters to "help get our country back on track" by voting for the former executive.
Fiorina spent a lot of her own personal wealth on the campaign, a point likely to be seized upon by Democrats in the midterm elections. Campbell has struggled to keep pace, temporarily withdrawing television advertising last week. A libertarian on most social issues, Campbell has focused his rhetoric on his electability in the final days of the campaign.
All the candidates seized on the nation's anti-incumbent sentiment to attack Boxer, who has served in the Senate for 17 years.
Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman beat state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner for the nomination to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the moderate Republican governor whose tumultuous time in office is coming to an end.