Big things are happening in the Republican race for US Senate in Arkansas. Blanche Lincoln’s poll numbers are falling like a rock and even the liberal blog DailyKos is now calling on her to resign. According to The Tolbert Report though, Lincoln’s organization doesn’t seem to be making preparations to throw in the towel. Instead it appears to be digging in for what promises to be a difficult campaign. Even though three of her potential GOP challengers by double digits at this early stage, it appears Lincoln plans to gut it out.
Here’s a rundown on the GOP field as it currently stands.
The already crowded field will take one more player next week when Jim Holt formally announces his candidacy. From Arkansas Watch
Former State Senator Jim Holt, who led the GOP ticket in the 2006 statewide elections, will announce his candidacy in the 2010 U.S. Senate race at a series of events to be held January 14th.
Holt took 44% of the vote in his 2004 loss to Sen. Blanche Lincoln the last time she ran for re-election. Some are tagging him the best chance to beat Lincoln after her vote for Harry Reid’s health care bill last month. That vote, combined with the general hostility to the Democrat Party, has many predicting Holt can fare much better in November than he did six years ago
Holt’s announcement may cause some Republicans in the state to rethink their positions. Many, like Bill Vickery, have been calling for other candidates to clear out and permit State Senator Gilbert Baker to preserve his cash and energy for a general election slug fest with Senator Lincoln. Vickery says “If the Republican Party doesn’t clear the field and make Gilbert Baker the lone nominee, then we are foolish.”
Most consider Baker the favorite in the race for now though. After his first place finish in the Republican Party of Arkansas’ straw poll last month, and his double-digit lead over Lincoln in the latest Rasmussen poll, Vickery’s not the only one who’s tagging Baker the man to beat in this race.
Though Vickery and others have placed their bets on Baker, central Arkansas businessman Curtis Coleman isn’t showing any signs of throwing in the towel. Coleman remains active on social networking sites and continues to travel the state meeting voters. He continues to hammer away at Lincoln and tackle issues on his blog and has recently added several new members to his campaign team.
Recently, Coleman announced the appointment of Matt Lagrone as his campaign’s statewide Political Director. “I am delighted to have Matt help direct our statewide grassroots efforts. He is an experienced political professional and committed conservative who wants to change the way things are done in Washington,” Coleman said. And today announced the addition of Mike Hudome as media consultant for the campaign.
Last month the campaign started with a flurry of press releases demanding Lincoln address several issues, including insulting comments by high ranking Democrats in Arkansas and union attack ads against Gilbert Baker which included the publicizing of his home phone number. Reynolds’ campaign demanded Lincoln abandon the secret negotiations to honor President Obama’s previous calls for transparency in the health care debate.
Then the campaign went almost silent the latter half of the month after his campaign manager, K. Ryan James, announced he was stepping down to pursue other interests. We’d seen little activity in the news and on social networking sites where Reynolds had been active.
But the Colonel informs us he simply took a little time off and has no intention of bowing out of the race. He assures us he has a busy January planned, including Joe the Plumber coming in later this month to campaign for him. Reynolds also says, “You will notice a slight shift in priorities over the next few weeks — a strategy that I believe will win me the primary.”
Fred Ramey continues to travel the state and says “We are finding that a blue-collar conservative candidate with a sincere desire to make a difference for all Arkansans is exactly what many people want.” Ramey remains convinced his blue-collar background and farming experience can beat Blanche Lincoln in the general election.
He admits he had hoped the candidate field would have narrowed by now, but says the campaign is making inroads. Not that he thinks the competition is a bad thing. In fact, he reiterates his committment to running a positive campaign and states that if the other candidates do likewise “this will strengthen the party’s hand now and in the future.”
Kim Hendren points to his lead over Lincoln in the latest Rasmussen poll and claims others show him leading the GOP primary. His committment to the race was recently demonstrated when he pumped $200,000 of his own money into the campaign. Pointing to the fact that some of the money his competition has raised cannot be used in the primary, Hendren says his campaign cash gives him the advantage.
Hendren states he’s developing a solid volunteer organization across the state, and says he’s “especially honored to have state party vice-chairman Duane Neal serving as one of my key supporters and advisers.”
He also tells us the campaign will soon announce upcoming fundraisers in Central Arkansas on February 4 and Northwest Arkansas on February 6.
Buddy Rogers tells us he has no plans of throwing in the towel either. He’s continuing to travel the state with upcoming events scheduled across the state. Rogers says his varied background in business, health care, and the military is resonating with voters. He says he’s “gratified by increased name recognition and support as I travel the state.”
We were unable to contact Tom Cox for this article, but will include an update on his campaign as soon as it’s available.
You’ve likely already read that a Rasmussen poll recently found more likely voters would choose a third party Tea Party candidate than a GOP candidate if given that opportunity in next year’s congressional election. When asked to assume the Tea Party organized as a political party, 36% said they’d choose the Democrat, 23% the would pick the Tea Party candidate, 18% would select the Republican, and 22% were undecided.
Liberals will see the results above and salivate, already tasting a split of the conservative vote. They can point to last month’s special election in New York’s 23rd congressional district as more evidence that 2010 will be a year of infighting that will temper the historical advantage of the opposition when one party holds the White House and both houses of Congress.
In NY-23, when the GOP threw its nomination to a candidate with virtually no conservative credentials, the Tea Party mobilized to support a true conservative running as an independent in the race. Even though the National Republican Congressional Committee spent nearly a million dollars promoting the liberal GOP candidate, she was forced from the race when polls showed her placing last in the three way race. Democrat Bill Owens won the traditionally Republican seat, with the conservative candidate Doug Hoffman coming in a close second.
So the question is, “How can the GOP avoid the mistakes of NY-23 and win the support of the 23% who would prefer a Tea Party candidate?”
Before we can answer that question, it’s important to understand the dependence of the Tea Party on the internet and social networking sites. The mainstream media largely ignored the protest movement as it grew and often understated the size of crowds who attended. The movement’s growth was made possible by news spread through non-traditional sources such as blogs, conservative online news organizations, and social networking sites. Its members work, play, socialize, and organize via the internet. So a candidate’s ability to win the support of the Tea Party voters will largely depend on his/her ability to function in this online environment.
In Arkansas, Republican candidates for US Senate are beginning to recognize that their chances for success may hinge on their ability to win the support of Tea Partiers in the state. This Saturday, Tea Parties across the state have teamed up with other conservative groups to sponsor a rally that will feature Michelle Malkin as keynote speaker. But, all seven announced 2010 GOP Senate candidates and an independent running for the seat will speak at the event as well.
Last week, the Republican Party of Arkansas held an Iowa-style Straw Poll for next year’s Senate race at its annual Winter Leadership Conference. The value of a strong Tea Party-GOP alliance was evidenced by the stronger than expected second place finish of Curtis Coleman. Some had already written Coleman off, declaring State Senator Gilbert Baker the front runner who would crush all his primary opponents.
Coleman is the founder and former CEO of Safe Foods, Inc. He’s not a politician, but a businessman who says “We are now suffering the greatest erosion of our personal liberties in history.” He promises to do everything he can to stop that erosion if he’s elected to represent Arkansas in the US Senate. And his message is resonating with the people of Arkansas.
In August, polls already showed Arkansas’ Democrat Senator Blanche Lincoln trailing Coleman by one point. A December 3rd Rasmussen poll now has the businessman leading the Democrat politician by 4 percent! Though Baker was practically announced the winner of next May’s primary, Coleman finished only two points behind him in last week’s straw poll. In a press release following the straw poll, Coleman points out several reasons the two point loss was really a win for his team:
- The Baker campaign spent an estimated 5 times as much as our campaign did on the straw poll.
- There is an unconfirmed report that the Baker campaign bought more than twice as many delegate tickets as our campaign.
- About 40 of our delegates were not able to be in Hot Springs and vote in the straw poll and, based on the approximate number of total votes cast, we estimate that we placed second by only about 14 votes.
- Approximately 80 people voted for us who were not there as one of “our” delegates.
So how has Coleman, whose name recognition was virtually non-existent at the outset of the campaign, spread his message and connected with enough Arkansans that it now looks like he could defeat the incumbent Lincoln in November?
To start with, he’s attended Tea Party events since last spring. Coleman’s been seen shaking hands, introducing himself and telling people face-to-face what he plans to carry to Washington if elected. He’s spoken at several of these events and connects with this group of voters who identify themselves more as conservatives than as Republicans.
When asked whether he thought the Rasmussen poll mentioned earlier spelled a GOP-3rd party split of the Republican vote, Coleman says “I’ve found that members of the TEA Party and the foundation members of the GOP are looking for the same things in a candidate: principle, passion, conviction, courage, and commitment to do far more than just win the election. My message to the our TEA Party supporters is the same as to our Republican supporters: I am a conservative Republican. Conservative first, Republican second…Members of the TEA Party and the Republican Party agree on this: we are much stronger united than divided.”
Coleman is capitalizing on the fact that Tea Party and GOP voters can soundly defeat the Democrats next year, if they can become allies. Remember, a combined Tea Party/GOP candidate takes 41% vs. Democrats’ 36% in the Rasmussen poll. In fact Coleman states, “I think the TEA Party can strengthen the GOP, but– to a large degree – that’s up to the GOP.”
In other words, not just any GOP candidate is guaranteed the support of Tea Party voters. The NY-23 congressional race discussed above proves his point. The Republican Party can’t count on voters’ dissatisfaction with Democrats to win votes, but must enlist candidates who satisfy the demands of conservatism, responsibility, and accountability to bring Tea Party voters into the GOP camp.
Coleman also recognized, early on, the benefits of a strong internet presence. With the mainstream media fawning over every Socialist turn taken by the Obama administration, there was little airtime available for coverage of a largely unknown upstart candidate for US Senate in Arkansas. Coleman compensated by taking his campaign to the internet from the start. He says, “The internet and its related social media have certainly given us the opportunity to build state and national name ID that probably would not have been possible otherwise, and therefore have facilitated our critical grass-roots organizational efforts.”
His campaign was still in its exploratory committee stage when he made his first post on his blog. He’s diligently updated his blog since then, posting a total of 44 articles while maintaining a busy campaign schedule traveling to all corners of the state for the more traditional campaigning methods of stump speeches and handshakes. But his blog is only part of his online strategy.
He’s also discovered the tremendous value of social networking sites in today’s political campaign. He’s active on Facebook and Twitter, often posting into the wee hours of the morning. One young supporter who traveled to Hot Springs from Malvern for last week’s straw poll was heard saying, “The reason I’m supporting you is because you’re so accessible,” speaking of their Facebook correspondence. He responds to emails personally, and often at hours when most people are snugly tucked in their beds.
Though some of his GOP opponents have made use of the internet and Tea Party to a lesser degree, and most now seem to be ramping up their presence in these arenas, Curtis Coleman has been building his grassroots base on the internet nearly from day one. His strategy seems to be paying off after defying formiddable odds in the straw poll last week.
The Republican Party needs to pay attention to what’s happening in Arkansas. New York showed us what will happen if the GOP simply hopes to exploit the Tea Party and depend on a nominating process that has failed the party miserably. This Arkansas Senate race is showing what can happen if the party actually embraces the ideas of the movement, welcomes them into the fold, and uses the internet to get its message out in spite of a mainstream media hell bent on furthering the Democrat agenda.
Was it too much to hope for that the GOP might actually have learned a lesson from the disastrous turn of events in New York’s 23rd Congressional District earlier this month? After the NRCC blew nearly a million dollars on a RINO candidate who, in the end, dropped out and endorsed her Democratic rival, you’d think leaders of the Republican Party would realize victory isn’t assured in 2010 because a candidate has an “R” beside his name. And maybe they have.
One might even expect GOP heavyweights to recognize the grassroots’ aversion to candidates too deeply entrenched in the political establishment, especially when their adherence to conservative principles is in question. But even if they can’t take quite that big a step at the moment, the essential lesson from NY-23 is the national party needs to step aside and let the grassroots determine their nominee. But does that mean they can’t offer any help until a candidate is chosen?
In Arkansas, a state where Democratic Senator Mark Pryor didn’t even face a Republican challenger last year, there are already seven announced Republican candidates running for Democrat Blanche Lincoln’s Senate seat in 2010. Only two hold political office, while the others come from a variety of backgrounds–farming, business, medicine, and military–but have never run for office. This may be the most contested Republican primary for national office in Arkansas’ history.
After Senator John Cornyn’s (R-TX) promise that the National Republican Senatorial Committee “will not spend money in a contested primary,” conservatives in the state probably assumed the national GOP hierarchy would stand aside and let Arkansans decide who would stand against Lincoln next November. But some are wondering if Cornyn and his colleagues at the top of the GOP food chain are already working to anoint a candidate in the crowded field.
Cornyn, along with Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), David Vitter (R-LA), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) held an NRSC fundraiser last week for Arkansas State Senator Gilbert Baker in Washington and there are shouts from every corner that this reeks of the Scozzafava scenario in New York. But Amber Wilkerson Marchand, spokeswoman for the NRSC says, “Baker had asked to have the fundraiser at the committee’s headquarters in Washington, and that the group would allow other candidates to have events there if they asked.”
Though we’ve been unable to reach all of Baker’s opponents, we did reach Arkansas Tea Party, Inc. founder and 2010 GOP Senate candidate Tom Cox. When asked if the committee had offered to host a similar event for his campaign he stated, “I can’t speak for the other candidates, but they [NRSC] made that offer to me.” So it doesn’t appear they plan to anoint Baker in the Arkansas race.
It looks like the NRSC might have learned from their congressional counterpart’s costly error last month that sent Democrat Bill Owens to the US House. They’re simply helping candidates raise much needed cash to unseat Lincoln.
Relax folks. No crisis here.
by Bill Smith: When polling numbers shows a senior senator in difficulty against potential candidates over a year out from the election, the news is bad news for that senator. And that is what is being projected for Arkansas’ U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln who is up for election in 2010 and has been feverishly raising funds and avoiding the public at town halls and TEA Parties in Arkansas. Public Policy Polling latest polling data released August 26th shows that Obama campaigning for Sen. Lincoln in in Arkansas would sink her race. While Barack Obama’s National approval rating of 52%, in Arkansas, Obama has only a 40% approval rating. And that is expected to continue to fall in Arkansas. In fact, the polling numbers showed that a majority of voters in Arkansas think Rush Limbaugh has a superior vision for the country than Barack Obama.
Blanche Lincoln’s approval rating has dropped 9% since March. Currently, Lincoln has 36% approval rating and a 44% disapproving rating of the job she’s doing. Currently, with no candidates formally filed for office against her, she’s in a statistical tie against three potential Republican opponents. And there are as many as eight candidates considering running against her.
Gilbert Baker leads her 42-40, Curtis Coleman has a 41-40 advantage, and Tom Cotton trails Lincoln slightly 40-39. The numbers of course are more a reflection on Lincoln’s unfavorable standing than that of the Republicans at this time.
“You couldn’t get a clearer indication that the national momentum is with Republicans right now than a poll showing some guys with single digit name recognition running even with an incumbent Senator,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “This is going to be a very closely contested race if the eventual Republican nominee does a good job of raising money.
Other indicators of running against Lincoln is that 53% of the people polled were women. In addition, 48% of those polled identified themselves as conservative, and 39% as moderate, leaving 12% of her liberal friends. At the beginning of 2009, voters returned Senator Pryor to a new six term without opposition; however, , his approval rating, although higher than Lincoln, is now only 47% with a disapproval rating of 32%. The voters disappointment with a previously considered “more conservative” Sen. Pryor may weigh heavily on voters in 2010 when considering returning a more liberal Senator Blanche Lincoln .
There is a growing “vote the bums” out feeling among the voters in Arkansas. Also, in Arkansas, continued open endorsement and support of Senator Lincoln by incumbent State constitutional officers (Governor, Lt. Governor, etc.) may place them at risk in 2010 if viable conservative candidates step forward to oppose them.
As summarized by Tom Jensen, Public Policy Polling, “Clearly Lincoln could be beaten, but there are several reasons why she might survive too. The first is that none of her potential Republican opponents have shown the ability yet to raise the money to run a strong campaign. Whoever emerges as her opponent is also going to need to be able to keep their foot out of their mouth, something that’s been a problem for some potential foes. The second is that Democrats nationally are in a recession right now and that goes a long way toward explaining these numbers.. . . Republicans have an opportunity here but it remains to be seen whether they can take advantage of it.”
Is there any level so low Democrats in Washington won’t stoop to it? Are they so conceited they actually believe themselves as they outright lie to the American people? Do they really think the American people are so terribly stupid they can’t see through their childish, imbecilic responses to conservatives’ fact-based challenges to their agenda?
Our first hint of things to come was the Department of Homeland Security report that warned law enforcement agencies of the danger posed by virtually every conservative in the country. Labeled “Right-Wing Extremists” in the report, conservative Republicans, Independents, and third party backers were pointed to as potential terrorists who deserved the scrutiny of local, state, and federal law enforcement officials. Even targeting the most patriotic among us, veterans of the US armed forces, it generated the first of several conservative uprisings to challenge Obama administration policies.
We thought it bad when we found out they didn’t read the $787 billion so-called “stimulus” bill. Then the arrogant Henry Waxman (D-CA) hired a speed reader to buzz through the Cap & Trade bill on the House Energy & Commerce committee at an unintelligible pace so that he could claim to have “read the bill.” The move was designed to undermine an attempt by Republicans to force them to fulfill their obligations to constituents by reading the bill to fully understand what the legislation would saddle the American people with. It was a classless, egotistical attempt by Democrats to ridicule both constituents and fellow members of the US House who demanded Democrats act responsibly and perform the duties for which they were hired.
The same Democratic legislators refused to read HR 3200, “Obamacare,” and are now paying the price. Now that conservatives have realized their representatives refuse to do their jobs, constituents are taking the task upon themselves. We now have a situation where ordinary citizens are taking the time to read legislation and explaining it to our elected officials. And the Democrats don’t like it.
Their lies and talking points are no longer holding water with the American people, because they understand it better than the Congress! Congressmen are walking into town halls and other public meetings armed with a single sheet of Pelosi-Reid talking points while their disgruntled constituents come armed with the actual text of the bill! Backed into a corner with facts, Democrats in Washington are lashing out in desperate attempts to denigrate their own constituents.
The Obama administration has now issued a mandate to his minions to turn in neighbors, friends, and family who write and forward communications critical of Obamacare. Not stopping there, the White House even demands “fishy” truths about Obama’s government-run health care program mentioned in casual conversations should be reported to the Propaganda Office in the White House. Ask yourself, when have we ever faced the prospect of an American President demanding citizens turn each other in to the government for disagreeing with policy? Never.
If that’s not enough to worry you, the President’s aides have now made direct threats to “punch back twice as hard” whenever the administration’s health care policies are challenged. We saw this put into practice when the administration sent in union thugs to physically assault protesters outside a St. Louis town hall. So now we have a President actively engaging in suppression of Americans’ ability to freely express their disagreement with their government.
And now we hear our own Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) has described us as un-American! It’s funny how Democrats have no problem with protesters who demonstrate against conservatives and their causes. According to Hillary Clinton, “we have a right to disagree with any administration.” But I guess she meant any Republican administration. Of course Lincoln is now backing away from her comment, but calling your constituents un-American doesn’t happen with a slip of the tongue.
She’s retreating because the heat from the fire she stoked is too hot! Though her Arkansas colleague didn’t even face a Republican challenger last year, the GOP field to run against Lincoln has already drawn a crowd. Arkansas State Senator Kim Hendren and Arkansas Tea Party organizer Tom Cox have already announced their intent to run, while central Arkansas businessman Curtis Coleman and State Senator Gilbert Baker are considering runs but have yet to announce. (Although I have it from a pretty reliable source that Coleman will announce soon.) A conservative Independent, Trevor Drown, has also announced his intent to run for Lincoln’s seat.
Lincoln’s opposition hopefuls wasted little time taking Arkansas’ senior Senator to task for her callous comment. The Cox campaign issued the following press release:
“Since the founding of the United States people have been exercising the freedom and responsibility to question their elected representatives. The current public political debate resembles the enthusiasm of our nation’s first 100 years. A U.S. Senator referring to as “disrespectful” and “un-American” for calling on their Representatives is appalling. Senator Lincoln’s statements are indicative of the elitist Washington D.C. arrogance and mentality that continues to dismiss the voice of Middle America. The citizens of this country deserve honest answers to their questions.”
Coleman, who’s made numerous posts on his blog enumerating the flaws in the Democrats’ health care plan, had this to say:
“What’s sad is that Senator Lincoln apparently doesn’t value the opinions of hard-working Arkansans who took time away from their busy schedules to express their concern over losing control of their healthcare to the government. Senator Lincoln’s description of these Arkansans as ‘un-American’ illustrates how deeply out of touch she is with the American people.”
Lincoln’s planning a series of public speaking events this week (not town halls) and we hope she gets an earful from some of us un-American Right-Wing-Extremists everywhere she goes!