by Max Brantley
But President Obama's sinking popularity and the stagnant economy — unhelped by Republican resistance to jobs programs — probably mean a continuation of the Republican hold on the House, this Politico article says.
This much is clear. Democratic victories in Arkansas HAVE to be part of a rebuilt Democratic majority.
And, sorry. That's not such a rosy scenario. Incumbent Rep. Mike Ross, the only Arkansas House Democrat, is leaving his 4th District seat to keep his skirts clean for a 2014 race for governor. He was a fund-raising machine with an opportunistic finger on the pulse of the sprawling district. A mess of candidates on both sides is developing — mess being the operative word. Conventional thinking is that a generic Republican wins, be it Beth Ann Rankin, the wide-eyed Sarah Palin doppelganger, or Tom Cotton, the self-impressed Dardanelle native who has deigned to return to Arkansas after years away now that there's a public office suitable to his stature on offer. Or maybe someone else.
Can Obama be any more damaging to Democrats than he was in 2010? Interesting question. Polls show there's still a hard-core Democratic constituency in Arknasas in the 35-40 percent range. Will the swing voters oppose anyone with a D simply because the black man with the funny name is a D, too? Call me a crazy optimist. I think many of voters might actually decide individual races based on the candidates and their stance on issues. Democrats might have to distance themselves from the president on some issues — but not on making millionaires pay a little more to a country that has rewarded them with an ever-increasing share of the wealth.
Take the 2nd District. U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, drilled in Karl Rove-style kneecapping politics and impressively disciplined, was served up a liberal black woman with a buzz cut as an opponent in 2010 and pushed all the buttons from the RNC tool chest for an easy win. Democratic polling shows he can be beaten in 2012 by a generic Democrat of a certain sort. There's supporting evidence in the fact that the three Democrats who lost statewide offices to Republicans in 2010 — lt. gov., secretary of state and land commissioner — all carried the Second District. But you can't win a race without a candidate. As yet, there is none. North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays made it clear to me it won't be him. So let us dream.
... how about a brainy, handsome medical professional with bipartisan credits in his background? Just a thought for your weekend consideration. Such a candidate could talk health care credibly. (UPDATE: Since Republican operatives on Twitter have already heard the rumor, we're talking about Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson.) He was Huckabee's choice to lead health initiatives such as the anti-obestiy campaign.
PS — I forgot to mention in original post that an obvious candidate, Bill Halter, continues to give no one any indication about whether he'd consider a race in 2012. "Stay tuned," is his repeat answer to all who call. He came back to Arkansas in 2006 to run for governor and I doubt his interest in that office has waned.
It's looking more and more like state Rep. Clark Hall will emerge as the Democratic opponent to Rep. Rick Crawford in the 1st, which still has a decent Democratic lean. Too bad he doesn't have Crawford's rodeo clown and radio credits in his background. I don't say that facetiously. Running for office is show biz, folks. Jonesboro Prosecutor Scott Ellington is still a possibility. His advantage is hailing from the district's population center. It's anybody's guess on whether the West Memphis 3 deal is a pro, con or wash.
The 3rd at least might be fun, though the predisposition of the district makes the outcome foreordained. Iraq vet Ken Aden's surprise Democratic candidacy has already included some sound footwork from a professional campaign consultant. As a former subordinate in the Guard to Col. Steve Womack, the incumbent Republican, Aden might have some notion of how to get under his skin in a debate.
I realize I haven't exactly painted a picture of how the Democrats could again hold three of the four congressional seats in Arkansas, as it did two years ago, rather than zero of four. But I think you can say a zero in Arkansas likely means a rout nationally.