I missed this yesterday, but I think it's worth a read. It's the Blanche Lincoln campaign's response to Bill Halter's opening day.
Her point seems to be that Halter said different things to different people. I think he was pretty consistent, if not as definitive as I'd hoped and expected on several points.
Lincoln seems to be critical of Halter on health for 1) being for a "public option," which she opposes in any form, and 2) not being for a suitably robust public option, as some liberal supporters prefer.
A candidate who supports some broadening of government-administered health care is, no matter how you slice it, a better option than Lincoln on that issue.
LINCOLN NEWS RELEASE
THE SIX DIFFERENT SIDES OF BILL HALTER
Little Rock- On his first day as a U.S. Senate candidate, Bill Halter has dodged and weaved on the very issue that his supporters are angry with U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln about, government-funded health care known as the public option.
But he cannot conceal the direct fund raising messages from the Washington-based liberal groups that are generating out-of-state cash for his campaign against Senator Lincoln. They claim he will be a champion for the public option. Compared to Senator Lincoln's steady hand through months of turbulent health care debate last year, Halter has failed to fully answer numerous questions today about whether he favors a robust public option.
"Who does he think he's fooling?" asked Lincoln's campaign manager Steve Patterson. "Bill is going to find he can't have it both ways. Either he is with the majority of Arkansans and opposed to the public option, like Senator Lincoln, or he is with the national liberal establishment that is angry with her right now."
Halter answers "Do you support the public option?" six different ways.
1. Halter supports an optional Medicare buy-in program for adults 55 and over. Not exactly the robust public option his supporters from the blogosphere are calling for and using to raise campaigns funds. Watch KATV video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMMRxi7caG4
2. CQ-Roll Call's John McArdle: "Halter briefly addressed both issues [public option and card check] on Tuesday, though he didn't say how he would have voted on either one." Read more.
3. Talk Business's Roby Brock: On health care, Halter offered a carefully crafted description of the principles he supports, including a "public option."
"Those two words - if you asked 100 Arkansans, you'd get a different definition," Halter said. "What I would favor is development of an option for the public to buy into a program voluntarily like Medicare." Read more.
4. Arkansas News' John Brummett: "Questioned on a public option, he said that phrase means different things to different people but that he would like to see some mechanism by which people could voluntarily buy into something like Medicare. (That's a "yes" on the public option without saying so.)" Read more.
5. Huffington Post's Sam Stein: On health care -- the most contentious issue of the day and the most divisive one when it comes to Lincoln's standing in the Democratic Party -- Halter struck a decidedly more progressive pose than Lincoln. He would not say whether he would support the final bill, noting that the legislative language was changing by the day. But he did offer his backing for a public option for insurance coverage -- a popular policy proposal that Lincoln has steadfastly refused to support.
"I do think that we need greater competition," Halter said. "I do believe that we ought to offer an option to the public. They get hung up on the words 'public option' and there's been a real messaging problem there. People don't know what that really means, so let me try to use an alternative formulation to tell you what I think people would respond to, and that is give the public the option, on a voluntary basis, to buy into a program like Medicare." Read more.
6. The Plum Line's Greg Sargent: There's been some question about whether Blanche Lincoln's challenger, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, really backs liberal priorities, such as the public option and the Employee Free Choice Act.
In an interview with me just now, Halter made it official: He fully supports the public option, and expects it to be an issue in the campaign.
Asked directly if he supported a public plan that would give folks access to Medicare or something like it, Halter answered: "Yes."
"If you give individuals the opportuinity to voluntarily buy into a system like Medicare, there is broad support for that," Halter said.