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Arkansas’ Bill Halter, Blanche Lincoln: It’s Down to the Wire

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Bill Halter has one thing going for him heading into the Democratic runoff Tuesday against incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln: momentum.
A Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll on Friday showed the Arkansas lieutenant governor with 49 percent to Lincoln’s 45 percent. The margin of error is four percent — exactly Halter’s lead. A Daily Kos poll the previous week showed Halter with 47 percent to 44 percent for Lincoln, who faces deep anti-Washington sentiment in her home state in the final stretch of a contentious race. In the primary on May 18, Lincoln won 44.5 percent of the vote to Halter’s 42.5 percent. A third candidate, D.C. Morrison, won 13 percent.
The Daily Kos poll showed that Morrison voters who plan to cast ballots in the runoff back Halter by a 10-point margin. The winner will face Republican Rep. John Boozman in the fall.
Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, the November face-off will be a target race for both parties. The Democrats will attempt to hold on to the seat while Republicans see it as a likely pickup.
Press Secretary Amber Marchand says that no matter who wins on Tuesday, “there’s no doubt that they will face an uphill battle” against Boozman. “Both Lincoln and Halter have run to the far left and embraced President Obama’s out-of-touch policies in an effort to appease their liberal base, and we are confident that Arkansas presents a key pickup opportunity for Republicans.”
A Halter win, however, will be a slam-dunk for national progressives and big labor in a state where Blue Dog pragmatism traditionally prevails.
“If Halter wins it will be in part to the credit of the progressive netroots, who regard Blanche Lincoln as the poster child for corporate-friendly Democrats and turned Halter’s nomination into a national cause,” said Matthew Kerbel, author of “Netroots: Online Progressives and the Transformation of American Politics.”
He said that a Halter win will show progressives they can make a difference in state races, just as they did in 2008 on the presidential level. Groups like MoveOn will now organize in states where they traditionally haven’t, he said.
If Lincoln survives, she would foil the anti-incumbent wave that has already knocked out Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter and Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett. But she would enter the general election badly wounded in a matchup against Boozman.
In the contentious 14-week primary, Halter, a state Democratic Party outsider who worked in the Social Security Administration during Bill Clinton’s presidency, has forced Lincoln to swing to the left on issues such as health care and banking reform and spend money from her once brimming war chest. Her campaign says she has raised $9 million but is now low on money.
The race — one of the most expensive in state history — has been a nationally watched roller-coaster ride for the two candidates, who have constantly attacked each other.
Third party groups — MoveOn and unions such as Service Employees International Union for Halter; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Job Security for Lincoln — have spent millions on television ads, mailers and get-out-the-vote efforts.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the SEIU will have 200 people on the ground Tuesday working for Halter, who has

campaigned on a “Washington is broken, change is needed” platform. “The fact is that if you send the same people, you’re guaranteed the same results,” he Sunday in an interview with Politics Daily. “People are responding to that message. The incumbent is so tied up and beholden to special interests and voters see that.”
On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, host Candy Crowley asked Lincoln about her campaign. “I’ve spent the last . . . week on our countdown-to-victory tour in 20, 25 county courthouses across the state,” she said. “Bill hasn’t been doing that; he’s been letting other people fund his campaign and do his dirty work and I’ve been out there with the people.”
The Halter campaign struck back Monday morning. In a press release, it pointed out that Lincoln has taken $1.2 million from Wall Street, more than $49,000 from credit card companies, benefited from more than $3 million in ads from shadowy Republican front groups, and is the top recipient of oil and gas money — including $19,000 from Gulf Coast polluter British Petroleum — and $558,375 from oil-and-gas industry PACs. “She continued to accept more than $40,000 from Wall Street interests as well as contributions from British Petroleum lobbyists during the runoff,” the release said.
Halter has also criss-crossed the state. A seven-day tour continues Monday, which he’ll finish up after midnight at an International House of Pancakes.
Lincoln’s campaign strategy has been to tout her seventh-generation Arkansas roots and her position as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. She is the first woman and first Arkansan to chair that panel. She also aligned herself with President Obama, who endorsed her with a radio ad and appeared on mailers for her. This is a risky move for Lincoln. Obama is not widely popular the state, which he lost by 20 percent to John McCain in 2008. Halter supporters, in fact, align more with Obama’s change message than Lincoln’s do.
On Memorial Day weekend, Bill Clinton campaigned for Lincoln in Little Rock. He aggressively attacked out-of-state liberal groups and unions for supporting Halter and interfering with Arkansas politics. In her one of her closing ads last week, Lincoln targeted those special interests and told voters she would rather lose this election “fighting for what’s right than win by turning my back on Arkansas.”
Another ad featured a clip from the Clinton rally with the former president preaching an anti-union message (click play below to watch).
During the runoff, Halter challenged Lincoln to a televised statewide debate. Lincoln said she would debate when Halter said where he stood on card check legislation. He has yet to do so, and she did not debate him.
While Lincoln activated Clinton, Halter turned to the grassroots support that he first developed in 2006 during his lieutenant governor race. His success with legislation creating a state lottery, which will provide scholarships to thousands of Arkansas college students, was also a campaign asset.
Numerous polls have shown either Democrat losing to Boozman in November.
“While it’s possible Halter, too, would lose, he actually polls better in general election match-ups,” Kerbel says, “which [progressives] feel speaks to their case that the public will reject Democrats who serve monied interests rather than the public interest, which they feel Lincoln did with health care policy.”
Boozman is a five-term congressman from the most conservative corner of the state – Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District, which hasn’t voted for a Democratic representative since 1967. In the state’s other three congressional districts, which trend Democratic, Boozman is largely a political unknown to voters.
During the primary, he faced seven opponents but easily won with 53 percent of the vote.
Perversely, the primary and runoff may have toughened up both Democrats for a general election. Halter and Lincoln have almost 100 percent name identification because of their battle.
Still, Lincoln will be the weaker candidate, although her Blue Dog views may lure independent voters away from Boozman. Arkansas is a state, after all, that has only elected one Republican to the senate since Reconstruction. That was Tim Hutchinson in 1996. He lost his seat to Democrat Mark Pryor in 2002.
A Lincoln-Boozman match-up would be a classic battle between two Washington insiders. Both voted for the TARP bailout; both have cast votes that will be dissected and used against them. But in the end, Lincoln would likely lose. Her base, which was weak at the primary’s start, has been severely splintered by the process. Though U.S. Chamber of Commerce backed her in the primary, it would likely jump to Boozman in the fall.
If Halter wins Tuesday, he will continue to push his Washington outsider message — and he can continue to campaign extensively in Arkansas, while Boozman — like Lincoln during the primary — will have to spend time in Washington for congressional business.

One advantage for Halter: He has run five state-wide races — the 2006 lieutenant governor race, which had a primary, a run-off and then the general election, and the senate primary and its current runoff. Boozman has never run a statewide race until the Senate primary this spring.

Boozman will undoubtedly paint Halter as a Nancy Pelosi patsy to progressives in a socially and economically conservative state.
“The object lesson that Democrats may gain from this should Halter win the primary and lose in November is that they would be better off distancing themselves from the unions rather than joining in their cause,” said Lara Brown, a political science professor at Villanova University.

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Posted in Politics

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Blanche Lincoln vs. Bill Halter in Round Two of Arkansas Senate Fight

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – This Race is About Arkansas, Not Outside Groups.
That’s U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s mantra as she gears up for a June 8 Democratic runoff with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.
Neither candidate received 50 percent of the primary vote, guaranteeing three more weeks of testy campaigning. Lincoln received 44.3 percent to Halter’s 42.5 percent. The third candidate, DC Morrison, who aligned more with the Tea Party than with Democrats, garnered a stunning13 percent.
A Democracy for American / Research 2000 poll after the primary showed Halter with 48 percent and Lincoln with 46 percent. In November, Halter or Lincoln will face Republican U.S. Rep. John Boozman, who beat seven opponents with 53 percent.
The message Lincoln now stresses: It’s time for outside interests to leave Arkansas. “I am grateful for the Arkansas voters who recognized that this campaign is not about the outside groups trying to exert influence here,” she said. “This race is about Arkansas.”
The race may, indeed, be about Arkansas, but outside groups have had plenty to do with it — and will probably continue to do so.
Lincoln’s FEC reports from the last days of the primary show that she received thousands of dollars from groups as varied as the National Turkey Federation PAC in Washington, Marathon Oil Company Employees PAC in Ohio, and the Pono PAC in Hawaii.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent money on her behalf during the primary as did several third party groups, including Americans for Job Security, a pro-business group launched by the insurance industry in 1997. It spent $780,925 on one television buy.
Halter, too, has benefitted from out-of-state PACs and netroots organizations. In the initial days of his campaign, the liberal MoveOn.org raised more than $2 million for him. The group sent out a fundraising plea Tuesday night asking for $200,000 in “emergency funds” for the runoff.
He also has the support of unions — a sore spot for Lincoln who won their support in previous campaigns. On Wednesday, the AFL-CIO said it would spend whatever was needed to defeat Lincoln, in part because she opposed the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier to unionize workers.
As for the tone of the contest, Lincoln has had a change of heart about negative campaigning.

On Wednesday morning, the Lincoln campaign took down a website called “Dollar Bill Halter.” Lincoln frequently pinned the nickname on her opponent, saying that “he’ll do anything to make a buck — even sitting on the boards of companies sued for defrauding investors.”

Halter vehemently denied the accusation. He pleaded with Lincoln in an April debate to take down the website after his campaign removed a website that referred to her as “Bailout Blanche,” a reference to Lincoln’s vote supporting the financial bailout and what the Halter campaign called her coziness with the banking industry.
The candidates find themselves in a runoff in large part because of businessman DC Morrison. He had never run for political office, spent little money, and ran no television ads. Morning-after pundits suggested that Republicans crossed over to vote for Morrison to extend the race and weaken Lincoln further in a runoff. But political scholars disagree.
“That would have taken the kind of singular, sustained commitment most people lack,” says Janine Parry, professor and Arkansas Poll director at the University of Arkansas. “To boot, with so many interesting, high-profile primary races for the U.S. House, why would so many Republicans take that risk, i.e., forego participation in one or more races of nearly equal interest and significance?”
On the campaign trail and in ads, Lincoln touted extensively her chairmanship on the Senate Agricultural committee. Still, she lost several farming counties, some of which are part of 26 “swing” counties that often play a decisive role in every election. Halter won 20 of those 26.
“They are disproportionately white, rural, and gave McCain an average of 63 percent of their ’08 votes as compared with 59 percent statewide,” says Parry. “Easy math is Halter hangs on to his votes and he picks up the non-Lincoln votes and that sets with conventional wisdom. But I don’t think he can count on that. He’ll have to work for it.”
Lincoln left Arkansas Wednesday morning for Washington to participate in a cloture vote on Senate financial reform package. Derivatives legislation that she authored is part of that package. She is counting on a high-profile visit on May 28 for former president Bill Clinton to help her get-out-the-vote effort.
And Halter? He waved a sign Wednesday morning to thank supporters. He’ll be back at it Thursday morning at an intersection and asking voters to make a return trip to the ballot box.

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Politics

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Blanche Lincoln’s Lack of Lipstick: It Could Bite Her in the South

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I like lipstick.

Maybe it’s my southern upbringing. The South is still very much a region where image is a daily, conscious effort. And lipstick with its bright, playful shades plays a role.
But sometimes, I forget about the lipstick.
Once when I worked at the local paper, my boss, a very southern-belle features editor, was obsessed with image. I worked furiously on a story, trying to meet deadline. Suddenly, she clapped her hands at me. I looked up – her desk was across from mine – and she was staring at me.
“You need lipstick,” she said.
“Lipstick?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Was she serious?
“Do you want lipstick or do you want me to meet deadline?” I asked.
“I really want you to put on some lipstick.”
It was time for me to leave that job.
For women in the political limelight such as Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan or Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln — who faces Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and businessman DC Morrison in a primary this Tuesday — image, however unfair, is an issue.
In Little Rock, rumors circulate in chic boutiques that fashionistas have offered Lincoln makeover after makeover, but she has balked. Her reasons for refusal are unclear.
Is it because she doesn’t want to be perceived as the decked-out doctor’s wife? (Her husband is an ob-gyn.) Is it a tactical political move to appear down-home in a mostly rural state? Or is it simply that Lincoln is true to herself and comfortable in her own skin?
Maybe she likes her minimum make-up and hair exactly the way they are. How refreshing. But don’t think her looks and dull pant suits aren’t the catty talk of small-town beauty shops and Junior League meetings. They are.
Lincoln’s freshly scrubbed face is certainly a rarity in southern politics.
A candidate running for a local seat recently confessed to me that the first political advice she received was “do something about my short hair.” She found a new consultant.
But the advice didn’t stop. One veteran female politician told her that a certain number of accessories were required from head to toe. It’s hard enough in politics to keep up with issues and policy, much less belts and bracelets.
Still, she says that she is very aware of her image in ways a male politician never has to consider. They simply put on a suit, or khakis and a polo, and start knocking on doors. She now wears jeans and a campaign T-shirt when canvassing, but always with make-up.
The South, even for its occasional progressiveness, is still a region where appearances matter.
In her best-selling book, “What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should),” Ronda Rich writes, “We women of the South have what other women sometimes think is an obsession with our looks. It isn’t necessarily our looks that concern us – it’s our appearance.”
As she wrote so truthfully, “We don’t wear curlers or yard clothes to the grocery store. We do wear lipstick and mascara.”
Dr. David Eigen, author of “Women – The Goddesses of Wisdom,” says that southern
voters, more so in the deep South than a state like Florida, expect “their female politicians to look refined” – a perception that has continued for decades.
“The South, as an image, bases itself on the belief that it’s still a male-dominated society where the female should conform to what men think the woman should like,” Eigen says.
Sure, we’ve come a long way down here in the land of moonlight and magnolias. But the southern-belle mantra of “look your best when you feel your worst” still rings true. It’s hard to secede from a mentality that has been so ingrained into the psyche, regardless of how feminist we southern women think we are.
A recent pro-Lincoln mailer from the Coalition for Arkansas Jobs featured a smiling Lincoln with, gasp, lipstick. My initial – and yes, I admit it shallow thought: Is that shade Toast of New York?

Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 6:50 pm