Here they are, the arrows of summer’s unofficial arrival, offered annually at this juncture for a couple of reasons. One is the demand for an extra advance column because of the long holiday weekend. But it so happens that the pending matter of runoffs in state primaries makes the reliable staple potentially timely and topical.
UPMike Beebe — His main challenge is overconfidence. Well, there’s also the fact that this governor’s race is still not really engaged. His support is soft and parts will have to be fortified. He has the money. He’ll need to spend it wisely and well.
DOWNAsa Hutchinson — Having Jim Holt as what amounts to a running mate might not marginalize him, since Arkansas voters are famous for considering candidates independently without a hint of partisan logic. But Holt certainly won’t help him in the vital task to get to the mainstream center, which is hard enough already for the Bob Jones University graduate and impeachment prosecutor of Bill Clinton. Hutchinson’s pandering to substandard schools is transparent and, for the moment, inconsequential.
UP Bill Halter — He spent that fortune for a fallback job and got a tepid 40 percent, less outside Pulaski County. Democrats thinking strategically with their runoff votes might see his more conservative opponent, Tim Wooldridge, as the better general election matchup against the frightful Holt. But people tend not to vote strategically, and the AFL-CIO endorsement gives Halter a grassroots constituency to go with his financial advantages and soft, media-influenced support.
DOWN Tim Wooldridge — He needs a stealth runoff driven by the higher motivations of his regional and religious base. Moderate and liberal Democrats would be horrified if they knew of his bill to bring back public hanging and of his general social conservatism. Central Arkansas voters would be resentful if they were informed that he voted for that bill to let Deltic Timber threaten the water supply. Maybe Halter, who has vowed not to go negative, could cite that ever-nuanced distinction between “negative” and “comparative” politics, and cut loose.
UP Jim Holt — He keeps winning Republican primaries without spending money. He’s a force, in the way a dark cloud is a force. He doesn’t believe in government. He doesn’t support public education. He wants to take science out of the science textbooks. He wants to be mean to illegal immigrants. His only good idea — and it’s a great one — is to bar legislators from accepting even a cup of coffee from lobbyists. His largely underground campaign slithers on, threatening to put Arkansas within a heartbeat of a government that would be half theocracy and half anarchy. And the more people like me say things like that, the more determined become his fanatics.
DOWN Dustin McDaniel — He had the Northeast Arkansas base. He had the backing of a bevy of former Arkansas Bar Association presidents. He had the billboards with the gun and black Lab and he had the slogan that he would protect our families — from something. And he got 37 percent, running a distant third in central Arkansas.
UP Paul Suskie — Actually, he didn’t impress either. Take his home county out of it, or give him a home county that happens not to be the state’s biggest, and he might be endorsing Robert Herzfeld, rather than the other way around. But he does have Herzfeld’s backing, and the appearance of momentum.
DOWN Charlie Daniels — Election glitches were not his fault. His choice of an equipment contractor remains defensible. But the glitches and the nepotism and the old-boy reputation will begin to add up. He is not so lucky this time as to have Janet Huckabee as his opponent.
UP Jim Lagrone — Not Janet Huckabee.