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Trailing Badly, Blanche Lincoln Turns to Clinton

Trailing Badly, Blanche Lincoln Turns to Clinton

By Scott Conroy and Erin McPike - October 8, 2010


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas Democrats' collective electoral prospects have never been worse.

Although Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and 4th District Rep. Mike Ross both appear likely to cruise to re-election, the state's other two Democratically held House districts and the seat held by Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln all appear likely to flip to Republicans.

Though the state has held onto its robust Democratic tradition - presidential elections notwithstanding - even as most of the South has turned reliably Republican, all signs indicate that this is the year when Republicans will finally turn the tide in the Razorback State.

After holding off a hard-fought primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in June, Lincoln's re-election bid has largely been ignored by the national press as she has languished far behind Republican challenger John Boozman - Arkansas's only GOP congressman.

In the latest RealClearPolitics polling average, Lincoln trailed Boozman by 19.7 percent.

Lincoln's last hope is to harness the continued popularity of Arkansas' most heralded political son: President Bill Clinton.

On Wednesday, the Lincoln campaign released a new TV ad highlighting Clinton's appearance at a rally last month on Lincoln's behalf.

"But now Blanche's opponent is not saying much now, did you notice that? That's ‘cause he's depending on you to be mad," Clinton says in the ad. "So he hopes that you will forget that he voted for a Republican budget to privatize Medicare - that since he first ran for Congress he said we would privatize Social Security. You've got a woman here who's produced for you, over and over and over again and who never shuts the door, always thinks we can do better."

Lincoln released a similar ad featuring footage of Clinton in advance of her victory in the Democratic primary - a move that observers credited with helping to push her over the top.

But the apparent wave of anti-Democratic sentiment among Arkansas voters - along with Boozman's effective job of nationalizing the race by tying Lincoln to the Obama administration - threaten to drown out any positive impact the incumbent may reap from the Clinton ad.

Of course, Clinton could return to Arkansas for a concerted final push on Lincoln's behalf. The former president typically visits his home state about once a month, and his visits are generally not announced until the last minute.

Clinton remains popular in his home state, but he is also in high demand in other areas of the country - particularly among Democrats running in states where anti-Obama sentiment is pervasive.

Clinton will campaign in Morgantown on Monday with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who is running for Senate against Republican John Raese.

West Virginia, like Arkansas, is a traditionally Democratic state that is trending heavily toward Republicans at the statewide level. But unlike Lincoln, Manchin remains widely popular in his home state.

A longtime Arkansas aide to President Clinton who spoke on the condition of anonymity indicated to RealClearPolitics on Thursday that Clinton was unlikely to hit the campaign trail in Arkansas again this cycle unless Lincoln showed realistic signs of life.

Scott Conroy and Erin McPike are national political reporters for RealClearPolitics. Scott can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Erin can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com

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