Today’s Arkansas Democratic primary runoff has the potential to create two very different storylines — will a conservaDem become the third U.S. senator to lose her seat this election cycle? Or will she weather the challenge but remain vulnerable this fall?
Sen. Blanche Lincoln failed to reach a 50 percent threshold in the May 18 primary, and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter has gained traction as the progressive favorite. The race has captured the attention of the national media — with most of the runoff’s headlines coming from Washington outlets instead of back home — but both candidates are pushing hard to keep up enthusiasm among voters they need to show up at the polls for round two.
Most people on the ground think it’s going to be close, given the Lincoln, 45 – Halter, 43 split during the primary. But even some Lincoln supporters have told me they fear it’s Halter with the momentum.In the final day of campaigning, both Lincoln and Halter crisscrossed the state to tell voters they are better positioned to win this fall against Rep. John Boozman (R-AR) who won his party nomination last month. Team Lincoln also slammed Halter on several issues, blasting him over the 1993 federal budget, sending reporters an article saying he was “thanking” out-of-state liberals by signing a Progressive Change Campaign Committee and crying foul on a mailer he’s put out with a photo of himself next to President Obama. (Obama, along with the rest of the Democratic establishment in Washington, supports Lincoln.)
Halter told PCCC members in an email the group had raised $250,000 for his campaign.
“The pundits didn’t think we could do it. But we’re now 36 hours away from defeating Sen. Blanche Lincoln and proving that Democratic voters will reject politicians who put their corporate campaign contributors first,” Halter wrote, asking for more money.
A Lincoln volunteer on the ground for the last 10 days told me that her supporters were “jolted” by the primary and realized, “We need to get into action.” Since then, Lincoln brought former President Clinton to the state to campaign on her behalf and he stars in her final television ads. The volunteer thinks Clinton “really helped” and that turnout will be better than people are expecting.
Other sources in Arkansas said the Lincoln camp seemed worried — at first. In the last few days the staff has felt increasingly confident she can pull it off.
There have been three polls taken since the election — all conducted by the same pollster — showing Halter in the lead. The TPM Poll Average gives Halter a lead of 49.7%-44.9%.