Picking the winners in most of today’s primary contests is easy, according to the polls. Much more interesting, though, is reading the tea leaves and trying to gauge what the results mean – specifically in Arkansas.
As mentioned after the Democrat primary was sent to a runoff weeks ago, Bill Halter’s challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln is not about her standing with Arkansas’s non-existent liberal base. It does reflect that many Arkansans feel disenchanted, and the word on the street is that this malaise will bring Halter to victory.
Lincoln has tried to fight back by painting Halter as the puppet of national left-wing interests, working through the most famous Arkansas politician in history:
Bill Clinton, a Lincoln supporter, has gotten in on the act as well, appearing at a Little Rock rally last week and now in a television commercial in which he decries the influence of national unions on the race. “This is about using you and manipulating your votes,” the former president says. “If you want to be Arkansas’ advocate, vote for somebody who will fight for you.”
Clinton then got on a plane and flew back to either New York or Washington D.C., the two places he has lived for the past 17 years since he was elected President and his wife was elected as a Senator from a state that is not Arkansas.
But despite the idea that Halter is “too liberal” for Arkansas, that could dramatically help Democrats’ chances of keeping this seat.
Halter isn’t campaigning to the left of Lincoln in state, but he does benefit from left-wing energy from out of state. Much like Scott Brown’s insurgent campaign, Halter’s website allows anyone to chip in with GOTV phone calls. Donations are still pouring in, too. That won’t subside in the coming months, as liberal activists sense the chance to basically turn a seat from a squishy vote to a solid vote on their key issues. If Halter can continue to enjoy the fruits of national energy without alienating Arkansas voters, he will be a much more formidable candidate than Lincoln – who, despite the advantage of incumbency, would not have enjoyed those benefits.