by Max Brantley
I can't shake the feeling that Republicans are again ahead of the curve on planning for 2012 elections in Arkansas. It's too early for direct public campaigning, but it's only 11 months until primary elections. People who are going to be running for legislature best be getting ready, even if the shapes of the legislative districts won't be known until at least the end of July.
But that's the state legislature, where a bloody battle will determine if Democrats remain in the majority, a tall order with the massively unpopular (in Arkansas) Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket. The generic preference for Republicans has reportedly dropped in Arkansas, but polling still shows a healthy gap in favor of Republicans. Middle-ground white voters are seen as particularly problematic.
Which brings us to Congress. Rep. Mike Ross will be challenged and no Republiican however nutty can be taken lightly, but he should prevail again. Republican Rep. Steve Womack could be caught, in Edwin Edwards' immortal words, with a dead woman or live child and probably still win the 3rd, so reflexive is the Republican vote there.
But what of the 1st District, Republican Rep. Rick Crawford, prop., and the 2nd, where Karl Rove hatchetman Tim Griffin is completing his first term? They've given Democrats a perfect campaign platform. They've voted for a plan to end Medicare as a single-payer universal safety net for the elderly in favor of an eventual voucher plan that many won't be able to afford. They've favored huge tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts that have already driven us into enormous deficits with no economic expansion to show for them They've backed cuts in a number of popular government programs (no, not just welfare.)
Will anybody run against them?
Good question. I can offer first-hand testimony, from a chance encounter, that Chad Causey is at least evaluating another run against Crawford in the 1st. The 2nd? Nothing to report so far, though I did hear second-hand that David Boling, former U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder's chief of staff, might make another run for the seat. He trailed in the Democratic primary in 2010 behind Robbie Wills and eventual winner Joyce Elliott.
Time is flying. It's not too early to be raising money and making campaign moves. The incumbents are doing both.