Today's column by Louis Jacobson in the Washington, D.C. newspaper Roll Call features Hendrix politics professor Jay Barth crediting Bill Halter's short-lived gubernatorial campaign for kicking Mike Beebe into gear.
And in some cases, a primary can boost a candidate whose frontrunner status has made him a little too complacent. When Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe (D) faced a sudden (and ultimately short-lived) primary challenge from former Clinton administration official Bill Halter earlier this year, it jump-started his bid.
"Halter's candidacy forced his campaign to get their act together in terms of infrastructure, but he never had to spend money on TV, nor did he have to face intraparty attacks," said Jay Barth, a Hendrix College political scientist. "I think that Halter's candidacy actually helped Beebe build on his advantage" over his Republican opponent, former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.).