Columns » John Brummett

Clinton's spin vs. fish tales



Blanche Lincoln has re-played the Bill Clinton card that saved her in the primary. Mike Ross is running against his own party leader in Congress. It gets a tad more interesting in Arkansas politics.

As you know, Clinton has a rare ability to articulate political differences in a concise and clear way that makes his side seem more righteous and can help to persuade the occasional independent voter.

He was the one who made the decisive point in the primary that Lincoln seemed incapable of making or unwilling to make. It was that out-of-state labor unions were trying to buy the Senate seat belonging to Arkansas voters. Don't let them do that, Clinton pleaded. 

In its only smart move, the Lincoln campaign made an 11th-hour TV ad featuring Clinton voicing that point in a public address in her behalf.

Now comes the general election reprise. Now here is Lincoln with a new TV spot featuring Clinton from another public address in her behalf. 

The former president is saying in this one that we do not hear much from Republican John Boozman because he is trying coast to victory over Lincoln on anger alone. Clinton says Boozman wants to hide that he once voted for a Republican budget plan to privatize Medicare and that he now likes the idea of privatizing Social Security. 

Meantime, Clinton says Lincoln has "produced for you over and over again."

There is your race, albeit with a Clintonian spin. 

Boozman indeed tries to coast on anger toward Lincoln while eluding any critical attention directed to himself or his voting record in the House of Representatives. Yes, Boozman voted for a Republican budget alternative in 2009 to steer people under 55 away from Medicare and into private health coverage. Republicans never wanted Medicare, you know. And, yes, Lincoln has produced for Arkansas as Agriculture Committee chairman.

We now hear that Lincoln closes the gap. As I wrote months ago, this was inevitable. She will not lose by any 20 to 30 points. My current sense is that I would not be surprised to see it wind up 52.5-44.5 with the other three points going to the fringes.

The question becomes whether this natural narrowing also represents actual momentum for Lincoln. 

All we know for sure is this: Every day that we are not talking about Lincoln's casting a decisive vote for health care reform is a day that keeps her hopes, however dim, afloat.

I suspect that all Boozman needs to do in the stretch run is dispatch those two goofy fishermen of his silly television commercials to perform a little skit going something like this: One would cut himself on his fishing hook and the other would say we need to get you to the doctor while asking the injured fisherman if he has health insurance; the injured fisherman, now bleeding profusely, would say that yeah, he has health insurance for the time being, but that he is not sure how much longer he can keep it considering that Blanche cast the deciding vote to let Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi imperil health care in this great country.

Mike Ross, meanwhile, seems scared half to death by this Palinesque insurgency the Republicans are waging against him in South Arkansas in the person of pageant refugee Beth Anne Rankin. She goes around saying he voted for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker, but that she would never.

So Ross has a new TV spot bragging on himself for voting against "Pelosi's health care overhaul." Not Obama's. Pelosi's.

As I have explained, Ross did in fact vote against health care reform on the House floor. But he and the Blue Dog coalition had enough votes on the Energy and Commerce Committee to kill the bill. They chose to amend it, not end it. 

Therein lies the dynamic that seems to be percolating in Arkansas: If Pelosi is the one you detest, then why elect someone of her party who must play footsie with her sometimes instead of someone of the other party who would not play footsie with her ever?

I repeat the question: Why straddle to be a Democrat when you might be able to stand up straight and be a Republican?

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