by Max Brantley
Carter would accomplish this by rounding up a handful of Republicans - let's guess John Burris, Duncan Baird, Charlie Collins, Andy Davis and Bruce Westerman for starters - to combine with 48, or maybe even 49 counting a Green, votes for at least 55, enough for election in the 100-member House. He'd royally chap much of the rest of the Republican caucus in the process. Gov. Mike Beebe would be permitted a cackle for urging Carter into the race and being seen as the wizard orchestrating the maneuver. (For the record: Beebe insists he has not meddled in the contest and would be happy with whomever wins, any of the three.)
Carter's meeting with Republican legislators in Northwest Arkansas today and dodging reporters. But a KFSM report adds Andrea Lea, Micah Neal and wackjob Justin Harris to the Carter coalition I reported earlier. (CORRECTION: Scratch a mention of Nate Bell, that was bad info. Justin Harris is a worthy replacement for extremism.) UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Justin Harris has sent out Twitters saying he supports Rice, despite what was reported to the contrary.
A commenter has already posted on the blog that he sees John Burris' fine hand in this. Sure. He'd be the power behind the throne as a full-time legislator without other employment who could do all the necessary detail work that banker/lawyer Carter might not have time to do. Any Democrat who thinks this is good for Dems has a short memory. And particularly when you read the split for Carter is because of dissatisfaction of Rice's friendship with some allegedly moderate Republicans. Moderation is a relative term in this bunch. But if this is accurate, why would Dems want to link up with them?
Democrats nonetheless say the whipping process on such a deal began late yesterday afternoon. I still don't see much of an upside for Democrats. Oh, maybe a committee chairmanship or two. Maybe the new speaker, who'll have appointment power that will decide the balance of partisan power on Joint Budget, will give the seats to Democrats, who came out of the original assignment process with a majority not counting ex officio seats the speaker will control. But a Republican speaker elected by a bloc Democratic vote? That's a guarantee of ongoing ill will with many Republicans, unless Carter (and Burris) endeavor to give them every other living thing they want. Which of course they will, maybe beginning with a chaplain's stipend for Justin Harris and a daily Bible reading. Which makes me wonder again what the Democrats see in all this. The math is still the math. 51 votes is still a majority for Republicans and a recount in one district seems increasingly unlikely to change that. Republicans will still call most shots and have the votes to override any veto.
I'm delighted that Republicans are squabbling among themselves. Try though they might, they can't blame this one on Democrats. They are shooting themselves in the foot, or some other more sensitive body part.
I'm not ready to predict Darrin Williams is prepared to go quietly (I haven't been able to reach him) or that all Democrats are prepared to fall in line on the scheme, orchestrated by the governor or not. I detect some resentment at the 11th hour orders.
I find this more interesting: I'm hearing increasing talk from Republicans that there is a way to pass Medicaid expansion. Rhetoric has cooled noticeably. Sen. Michael Lamoureux, the Republican leader at the other end of the Capitol, is a dealmaker. Carter, should he prevail, has indicated great sympathy with the arithmetic of all that additional federal money and the significant benefits it would bring. All the Republicans have hospitals or other facilities that need the money desperately. Voters' memories being what they are, the Republicans could join a Medicaid expansion - with a figleaf of stuff like a pee-in-the-cup drug testing bill for welfare deadbeats and some co-pays to make sure some tribute is ground out of the deadbeats - and not worry that a significant number of voters would remember, much less punish them for, their mind-blowingly egregious hypocrisy on the black president and the hated Obamacare.
Think I'm crazy? Look at Florida, where wackjob Gov. Rick Scott is acceding to the inevitable and dropping his opposition to the Obama health care plan. Arkansas will be last, I know, but ....