by Max Brantley
Nope, no good news out there.
Right-wing independent groups with limited or no financial disclosure rules had a huge impact on the election. Surprise. Some of them, like the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity, which was active in Arkansas races, do no disclosure whatsoever. Something needs to be done about that, but the beneficiaries of their money (Republicans) aren't likely to demand transparency in this particular part of the political system.Warwick Sabin's cover story in 2004. That ringing endorsement he got from his own home district Tuesday — a modest victory margin over a Sarah Palin imitator who managed to be shallower than Palin — doesn't look like much of a springboard to me. There is a certain ghoulish appeal in contemplating a couple of hollow opportunists like Tim Griffin and Mike Ross chewing each other's head off in a gubernatorial cage match in 2014. But what about the children?
As I said at the outset: not much to cheer. Question of the moment: What will Lt. Gov. Bill Halter do in retirement? I think he still has a pretty good brand, much as Republicans would relish trying to carve him up. He defied convention to be elected lieutenant governor. He single-handedly engineered approval of the state lottery. He darn near took down a richly endowed incumbent senator in a primary election dominated by old base voters and might have done the trick but for an avalanche of special interest money bent on preserving the weakest Democratic candidate (Blanche Lincoln). His insurgent candidacy also was undercut by a Republican dirty trickster, D.C. Morrison, who played the Monroe Schwarzlose role in the primary. Morrison was installed in the race as the amiable buffoon whose 30-40 percent protest vote was to force Blanche Lincoln to spend millions and demonstrate her weakness. Halter's entry only doubled the damage with a Morrison-forced runoff in which special interests really piled on Halter.
Maybe Halter could run for 2nd District Congress in 2012. He's already demonstrated political organizing skills superior to anything demonstrated by Arkansas Democrats on Tuesday. Ross' submissive Blue Dog routine is quickly running out of appeal, witness a bloodbath Tuesday among Blue Dogs nationwide. Real Democrats did OK.
PS: Re governor 2014. Yes, there are other contenders for that office, I was just imagining the nightmare scenario. Sen. Mark Pryor, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, newly elected U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, this year's Republican nominee Jim Keet and a host of others will be discussed as the years roll by. Hell, if a Twilight Zoner like Mark Martin can be elected secretary of state on a record of expense account padding and lunatic fringe politics, there's no reason he couldn't be elected governor by a similarly discerning electorate in 2014.