It’s easy to be energized if you’re running against the left this year

In early March, I wrote about the challenge that Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln faces from the left of the Democratic party in the form of the state’s Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. I suggested that, although Halter would be well-funded by out-of-state leftists, he probably didn’t pose much of a threat to Lincoln. Arkansas Democrats are a pretty moderate lot, I noted, and “the usual leftist suspects — lawyers, labor union loyalists, professors, and blacks — are not sufficiently numerous to form a winning coalition, particularly given the strength of Lincoln’s base in east Arkansas.”
Recent polling confirms this assessment. According to Chris Cillizza, polls show Lincoln holding a double-digit lead over Halter.
Cillizza believes that the primary campaign is “energizing” Lincoln, and that by vanquishing a challenge from the left, Lincoln will “build up some momentum heading into what promises to be a difficult fall campaign.” He quotes a Democratic political operative who claims that “defeating the unions and national political bloggers will speak to a key part of Lincoln’s reelection argument – that she is independent and will always put Arkansas first.”
This strikes me as wishful thinking. Lincoln was the 60th vote for Obamacare and has generally been a reliable vote for the Democrats throughout her career. In a political year like this one is shaping up to be, and with Lincoln’s record, it’s going to take more than facing down the Daily Kos to convince Arkansas voters that Lincoln (in the words of one of her ads) answers to Arkansas, not to her party.
The bottom line, I think, is that Arkansas Democrats are too moderate to nominate Halter, and Arkansas voters as a whole are too center-right to re-elect Lincoln – provided, of course, that the Republicans nominate a credible candidate.

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