Lincoln, Halter ask who is more Arkansan
LITTLE ROCK - It's all about Arkansas. Really it is.
As Democrats prepare to end a tense and expensive Senate primary battle with Tuesday's runoff election, Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter are spending their final dollars trying to out-Arkansas one another.
Lincoln's last television advertisement shows her in a field of tall grass, a red barn in the background. She tells viewers that she heard their anti-Washington anger in the May 18 primary that left her five percentage points short of a spot in the November general election. She vows, naturally, to fight for Arkansas.
The two-term incumbent is missing no opportunity in the last frenetic days to depict herself as a daughter of the Ozarks while deriding Halter's pitch as pure Potemkin. In a race considered a toss-up, she gladly reminds voters that Halter has benefited from millions of dollars - and significant canvassing support -- from national labor unions.
Halter, meanwhile, pitches his North Little Rock high school football roots and drives a pickup or an RV to campaign events, where he tells voters that he will stand up for "middle-class Arkansas families."
He seems rather less inclined to mention that he is a prosperous Oxford-educated economist and businessman who has lived somewhere other than Arkansas for 20 of the last 25 years.
Lincoln has been on the defensive since Halter entered the race at the beginning of March. Although she has not lost a race in four tries, she won just 45 percent of the Democratic primary vote, with Halter taking 42 percent and conservative Little Rock businessman D.C. Morrison collecting 13 percent.
Morrison chose not to endorse either candidate and has said he will support Rep. John Boozman, the Republican nominee, in November. Lincoln and Halter, born two months and about 100 miles apart in 1960, have been racing across the state for three weeks to capture Morrison's voters and get their own supporters back to the polls.
Lincoln, who is supported by President Obama and Vice President Biden, enlisted former President Bill Clinton to jet into Little Rock on her behalf. He jetted into Little Rock the other day to say that the unions only see Arkansas as a handy place to send a message to Democrats who take their support for granted.
"This is about using you and manipulating your votes," Clinton said, "to terrify members of Congress from other states."
Halter has countered Lincoln's complaints by saying that she has accepted more contributions from "Wall Street executives" and health care companies. The League of Conservation Voters is running a 30-second ad asserting that Lincoln, in the past two years, has "taken more oil and gas money than any other U.S. senator."
Lincoln has walked a careful line when addressing her Washington experience. She portrays herself as an adult among squabbling children on Capitol Hill and warns that Arkansans will lose the benefits of her seniority - she chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee - if Halter wins.
To emphasize an earnest, folksy, Arkansas side and draw a contrast with Halter's high wattage approach, Lincoln's campaign has been emailing letters of support from her family, including her mother and her husband, Steve Lincoln, a Fairfax, obstetrician.
The most recent missive went out Monday morning under the heading, "My sister." Ann Waits said Lincoln "has been a powerful voice for us in the Senate, and she needs all of us to be there for her now."
She made sure to point out that Lincoln grew up in the small town of Helena.
That would be Helena, Ark.
-- Peter Slevin
Washington Post staff
June 7, 2010; 12:39 PM ET
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