Good and Bad of Halter vs. Lincoln in 2010 (Part I)
On Monday, Arkansas’ Democrat Lt. Governor Bill Halter announced he will run against incumbent Democrat Senator Blanche Lincoln. Many are writing that conservative GOP candidates will reap big rewards from Halter’s challenge, and it will certainly help them in some areas. But the primary competition could actually help Lincoln with Arkansas conservatives who historically vote Democrat.
It’s been widely reported that Lincoln has over $5 million in the bank while the crowded field of Republican candidates have struggled to raise campaign cash in the midst of the current recession. But, in only two days, left-wing special interest groups including Moveon.org, Act Blue, and powerful labor unions have filled Halter’s campaign coffers with $4.75 million. This puts the two Democrats on an essentially even playing field for the primary and will prevent either from hoarding funds for the general election.
The far left fringe of the Democrat party is declaring an all out war on Lincoln. The powerful left-wing labor union AFL-CIO alone has agreed to funnel $4 million to Halter’s campaign. These left-wing forces are upset because Blanche has spent her political career trying to play both ends against the middle. She supported nearly every plank in President Obama’s platform last year, but the start of the campaign has her courting the conservative majority of Arkansans. Her votes for the Wall Street bailouts, auto industry bailouts, record budget deficits, record federal debt, and Obamacare weren’t enough to satisfy the left-wing loons’ demands for more government interference in Americans’ lives.
Since returning from the Senate’s Christmas recess, Lincoln has been slinking slightly to the right. The Democrat Senator who so angered Arkansas’ conservative majority the past year by voting for the President’s Socialist policies even fired a shot across Obama’s bow last month in an effort to win back the support of her conservative constituency. In addition to asking the President to “push back against people at the extremes” of their party, she directly attacked him for his lack of administrative experience when she relayed the concerns of a constituent who worried that no one in the White House “understands what it means to go to work on Monday and make a payroll on Friday.“ Her actions since the beginning of this election year make clear the Senator believes the key to her success lies in recapturing the support of Arkansas conservatives.
But Leon H. Wolf at Redstate predicts that “Halter’s very presence in the Democratic Primary will effectively force both candidates to tack left for the Democratic primary vote.” And while a primary challenge by a left-wing Democrat in most states would do just that, several factors in Arkansas may mean Blanche’s veer to the right may be the key to a primary victory in May. Arkansas’ open primary, conservative electorate, and historical unwillingness to send Republicans to the US Capitol could benefit Lincoln more if she DOESN’T follow Halter to the left.
Arkansas’ open primary permits registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, to vote in either the Democrat or Republican primary. In the 2004 primary, 278,000 Arkansans voted in the Democrat primary vs. only 54,000 in the Republican primary. According to the Arkansas Times, in January of 2008 there were only 57,851 registered Democrats and 44,437 registered Republicans in the state. So, registered independent voters outnumbered registered Democrats participating in the 2004 Democrat primary.
These numbers indicate a Democrat primary victory in the state may be possible without the support of the far left. And it could happen that, if Halter comes across as an extreme left-wing liberal, many more conservative voters may be motivated to participate in the Democrat primary for no other reason than to vote against him. If that occurs, these voters will likely find it much easier to support Lincoln in November.
So Halter’s entry in the race will certainly benefit real conservative candidates by forcing Blanche to spend some of her hoarded campaign stash, but it may also strengthen her with those conservative Arkansans who still remain reluctant to pull the Republican lever in the voting booth.
Conservatives who want Blanche gone need to work together to exploit a Halter vs. Lincoln primary. The goal is to maximize the damage done to Lincoln’s campaign and minimize the benefits. Look for Part II of this article later this week for ideas on how to do just that.