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In Ark., Halter says a runoff against Lincoln would still be a 'victory'

The Post has reporters in three states covering Tuesday's elections. Read the feeds on the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary, the Kentucky Republican Senate primary, and the PA-12 special House election.

See earlier: Blanche Lincoln races against opponent, outside groups

Updated 8:30 p.m.
By Peter Slevin
WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. -- Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, aiming to upend Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Tuesday's Democratic primary, said he is aiming for a "clean victory" but would be happy to make it into a runoff.

"If you wind up in a runoff with an incumbent Democratic senator who's been in the Congress for 16 years," Halter told reporters here Monday, "it'd be hard to characterize that as anything other than a victory for us."

Polls during the increasingly acrimonious contest have shown Lincoln with a solid lead over Halter but falling short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a June 8 runoff. The third candidate in Tuesday's race is self-funded Little Rock conservative D.C. Morrison.

To nudge undecided voters off the fence, Halter, 49, scheduled campaign stops through the night, finishing with a trip to his North Little Rock polling station after dawn Tuesday. He is finishing his candidacy where he started it, on the offensive against Lincoln, who is seeking her third Senate term after serving two terms in Congress.

Backed by liberal voting groups and labor unions disappointed with Lincoln's performance, Halter contends that Lincoln, 49, is too close to big business, too likely to help the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and, when it counts, politically unpredictable.

On a day when Halter scheduled 20 events to Lincoln's four, the candidates charted routes within a few miles of each other in East Arkansas before Halter climbed aboard a plane to fly west toward Fayetteville and Fort Smith. Lincoln ended her day at a fish fry in Paragould.

Updated 3:47 p.m. Blanche Lincoln races against opponent, outside groups
By Peter Slevin
MARION, Ark. -- Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), fighting to avoid a runoff and save her political career, said on Monday that she had expected a midterm challenge, but underestimated the flood of outside money that would pour into Arkansas on behalf of her Democratic opponent.

During the final campaign swing of a sharply contested primary, Lincoln in East Arkansas said that labor unions and political groups on the left have misrepresented her record in a determined bid to help Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.


(Peter Slevin/Washington Post)

"They want to show that unless you're 100 percent with them, they're going to come at you," said Lincoln, a self-described moderate who has taken flak from left and right in her quest for a third-term.

"I think by and large, most Americans are moderates. They realize that problems weren't created overnight and they're not going to solved overnight," Lincoln said after speaking to supporters in her old congressional district. "We've all got to get down and work hard to find common ground."

Polls show Lincoln, the 49-year-old Senate Agriculture committee chair, with a lead over Halter ahead of Tuesday's voting. Unless she receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the three-candidate field, however, she will be forced to face Halter again in a costly June 8 runoff.


(Peter Slevin/Washington Post)

While Lincoln anticipated a fight from the Republicans, this is the first time in 36 years that an incumbent Arkansas senator faced a challenger from the same party. Halter, 49, was elected in 2006 with 57 percent of the vote and entered the Senate race in March.

"We started out our campaign then knowing that when you run midterm of a new administration, it's always volatile," Lincoln said after telling her followers that there is work to be done in the next 24 hours.

"Presidential election years are very sensational," Lincoln said. "People's expectations have been elevated and you're the first thing that comes between them and the expectations that haven't been met."

Scrapping for votes, Halter scheduled 20 events in a 25-hour sprint beginning Monday, criss-crossing the state from El Dorado to Jonesboro to Fayetteville and back to Little Rock for a series of appearances after midnight.

Lincoln confined her final argument to East Arkansas, where Halter is also scheduled to appear this afternoon just a few miles from Marion.

Lincoln was introduced by Rep. Marion Barry (D-Ark.), who has no affection for Halter, whom he considers an opportunist. Despite polls that show rising anti-incumbent feeling, Barry said her Washington experience is a plus, especially in her role as Agriculture Committee chairman.

"It would be absolutely crazy," Barry said, "for us not to reelect Senator Lincoln just for that reason."

Labor unions led by the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union pledged to spend more than $4 million on behalf of Halter, who is running a populist campaign accusing Lincoln of being too conservative on issues from labor and trade to banking and the environment.

AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale said Monday that the assault on Lincoln was designed to show that big labor will "hold politicians accountable." Following the Arkansas contest, he said, the next time unions warn Democratic politicians that labor is not automatically on their side, "everyone certainly knows that we mean it."

Vale believes the message will ring clear whether or not Halter wins.

"In red Arkansas, we're likely about to take a two-term incumbent to a runoff election," Vale said by email from Washington. "That is almost unprecedented."

6:36 a.m. To catch Blanche Lincoln, challenger plans 20 stops in 25 hours

LITTLE ROCK -- Determined to outwork Sen. Blanche Lincoln on the eve of a Democratic primary that, polls say, he is unlikely to win, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter embarked on a 25-hour campaign swing Monday morning that will take him across the state and back again.

Halter began in far southern Arkansas, near the Louisiana border, while Lincoln scheduled her first event just a few miles from the Missouri line in the north. Halter has 20 stops on his schedule before he votes early Tuesday. Lincoln lists four.

Backed by millions of dollars from national labor unions and Democrats on the left, Halter aims, at a minimum, to deny Lincoln 50 percent of the vote and force a June 8 runoff with the help of the third candidate in the field, self-financed Little Rock conservative D.C. Morrison.

Halter's breakneck pace is one measure of the intensity of his attempt to knock off Lincoln, a two-term incumbent and self-styled pragmatist who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. To her quip that she is the rope in the tug of war, he retorts that he is pulling the rope for middle class families.

The results will be widely examined for clues about the political health of a centrist Democrat considered vulnerable by the left and the right alike. Arkansas Republicans say they like their chances of picking up the seat in November.

The stakes are significant for the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org and other national organizations that are helping Halter. The final numbers will be a measure of their ability to deliver a victory in a conservative, largely non-union state -- and their wisdom in targeting Lincoln.

Polls consistently show Lincoln, 49, with a lead over Halter in a primary that has drawn more early voters than ever before. Her Arkansas roots run deep and she has gotten support from President Obama and former President Clinton.

"It really looks like Halter might be stalled-out at seven to nine points back. He's running out of time," said Janine A. Parry, who directs the Arkansas Poll. Parry said Lincoln helped herself with Democratic voters when she took a hard line on Wall Street's financial derivatives products.

That decision has "given pause to some of the liberals here who had been disenchanted," Parry said.

"It's a real race...Halter is giving her a real run for her money," said Ouachita Baptist University professor Hal Bass. He said he anticipated a Lincoln victory, but added that "you have the possibility for people to make late-breaking choices."

Halter, 49, is a Stanford-educated Rhodes Scholar who made millions in business before returning to Arkansas in 2005 to run for office. Hoping to tap the national anti-incumbency mood, his principal criticism of Lincoln is that she has spent too much time in Washington in thrall to special interests.

"He also started out with this theme that Washington is broken," Parry said. "In this environment, you'd think that should get some traction, and it has."

Rep. John Boozman, the state's only Republican member of Congress, is widely expected to win the GOP primary in an eight-candidate field.

By Peter Slevin  |  May 17, 2010; 6:36 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , 44 The Obama Presidency , 50 States , Battlegrounds , Democratic Party , Election Day , Primaries , South , The Democrats  | Tags: Blanche Lincoln, Democratic, John Boozman, Missouri, Ouachita Baptist University, Republican Party, Trade union, Washington  
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Comments

Ms. Lincoln is reading the menu wrong.

When the anal conservatives are all fired up, in your face, and out for Democrat's blood, there is another item on the menu. Democrats are downright eager enough for some meat to chew as to eat the confounded meat before it even reaches the butcher. They are angry, and Lincoln should be talking to them.

Ms. Lincoln has blanched her program and her campaign, and she wonders?

Posted by: paultaylor1 | May 18, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Lincoln is "surprised" by the anger towards her from the left? Is she that oblivious? She has voted consistently against the most important agenda items and somehow she's shocked. Well, she can wallow in her shock as she loses her race.

Posted by: Pupster | May 18, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

The republican party has been taken over by the right wing/teaparty/violent/terriorist/christian/extremeist. Average americans must counter with left wing/liberals to meet in the middle. I will never vote again, the whole government is corrupt.

Posted by: linda_521 | May 18, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Why would any thinking person vote for a Democrat in AR?

Halter is just another stupid, empty suit...waiting for his instructions from DailyKos or firedoglake...through his ActBlue 2.5 million dollar campaign fund...he will never make an independent decision about an issue.

His votes are forever bought.

The country must vote Republican...there is no such thing as a "conservative" Democrat. The Progressive Political Party and the Fraud Obama will beat them into submission.

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | May 18, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Why would any thinking person vote for a Democrat in AR?

Halter is just another stupid, empty suit...waiting for his instructions from DailyKos or firedoglake...through his ActBlue 2.5 million dollar campaign fund...he will never make an independent decision about an issue.

His votes are forever bought.

The country must vote Republican...there is no such thing as a "conservative" Democrat. The Progressive Political Party and the Fraud Obama will beat them into submission.

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | May 18, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Get "Taxed Enough Already!", "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For The American!" and other great stickers at http://www.keep2theright.com

Posted by: NYC_CON | May 17, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't mind seeing Lincoln voted out and Halter taking her place, but Arkansas is probably too dumb for that to happen.

Posted by: fbutler1 | May 17, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Blanche Lincoln - OUT....enough said.

Posted by: ReneesOpinion | May 17, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm a DC native now living in NC and am proud to say I contributed to the Halter Campaign. I'll be watching your election progress online Bill TOMORROW--thanks for the link!! GOBILL...GOBILL....GOBILL....GOBILL...

Posted by: Haditupta | May 17, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm a DC native now living in NC and am proud to say I contributed to the Halter Campaign. I'll be watching your election progress online Bill TOMORROW--thanks for the link!! GOBILL...GOBILL....GOBILL....GOBILL...

Posted by: Haditupta | May 17, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm sick of Lincoln and her fellow Corporate Dems who HEDGE their election results with corporate funds. Lincoln's voting record, especially on Health Insurance, was obvious! No news scoop to say but today's supreme goal is STAY IN OFFICE and these blue dogs in 'hostile' states know its folly to rely upon voter turn out alone-so they all purchase insurance by HEDGING-taking corporate monies! Nelson? Landrieu? o you better believe it! What other motivation would be behind a voting record that DEFIES your constituency? Dots: Connected.

Posted by: Haditupta | May 17, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Blanche Lincoln sold her soul to indu$try -against the best interests of her constituents.
This is common practice of Republican politicians who distract their rubes with opposition to abortion and gays while raking in the moolah from corporate lobbyists - reflected in their votes more favorable to industry than their constituents.
Go Halter - woohoo!!

Posted by: angie12106 | May 17, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Blanche Lincoln sold her soul to indu$try -against the best interests of her constituents.
This is common practice of Republican politicians who distract their rubes with opposition to abortion and gays while raking in the moolah from corporate lobbyists - reflected in their votes more favorable to industry than their constituents.
Go Halter - woohoo!!

Posted by: angie12106 | May 17, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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