The Halter-Lincoln Debate

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You may remember that a few weeks ago I opened this column with the declaration that this was going to be a fun election. Well, now that Bill Halter has decided to challenge Blanche Lincoln in the primary it has not only become more fun, but an election that the rest of the country will be watching.

Lincoln somehow has managed to make all sorts of people mad at her at the same time. Liberals are mad at her because she has been leaning to the right lately. Conservatives are against her because they think she will become some sort of ultra liberal once the election is behind her. People that are for health care reform are mad at her because she was against single payer and a government option. People afraid of health care reform think she will vote for it once she's safely back in office. She's also in trouble because there is a lot of anger out there at all incumbents.

Halter isn't popular now because of who he is, but who he isn't. He isn't Blanche Lincoln. Most establishment Democrats in Arkansas don't like him because they don't think he has paid his dues. Conservatives and Republicans don't like him because they think he will be hard to beat in November. Liberals just don't know what to think of him.

One thing is for sure, and that is that a lot of people with access to money are mad at Lincoln. Halter has been able to raise four million dollars seemingly overnight. You don't do that unless your opponent is in big trouble.

The source of the unhappiness with Lincoln is a mystery to me. Like most successful Arkansas Democrats she's a centrist. She has never taken a strong liberal stance on any issue. In fact, she hasn't done anything that should make her vulnerable to lose the election. She has voted against health care, unions, and cap and trade. Those votes weren't popular with the national party, but they are in Arkansas.

The only thing that makes much sense is the powerful anti incumbent feeling out there. People are mad at Congress as a whole, and are ready to take that anger out on any incumbent they can. Two Senators and several Congressmen have decided to retire because they aren't sure they can be re-elected this year. The anti-incumbent feeling is bipartisan. Even John McCain is facing a tough re-election this time.

Before Arkansas voters go to the polls they should remember one important fact. That is that Lincoln is chairperson of the Agricultural Committee where the new farm bill will be written. Since that document is second only to the Bible in importance in Arkansas, that alone should be enough to insure her re-election. That fact alone shows just how strong the anti- incumbent feeling is out there. This election is not only going to be fun, it's going to be interesting.