Ad wars in Arkansas heat up in advance of June 8 runoff
1. Less than two weeks before Arkansas voters head back to the polls to choose between Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), both sides launched ads aimed at defining the incumbent.
Lincoln, who narrowly edged Halter in the May 18 primary but was unable to break the 50 percent to avoid the June 8 runoff, began running a television ad that touts her work to help pass a financial regulatory reform bill.
The ad opens with a clip of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow -- a heroic figure among liberals -- taking note of the legislation's passage; "Blanche Lincoln is standing firm for Arkansas, for historic change," says the ad's narrator at the close of the commercial.
Even as Lincoln was seeking to paint herself as a populist -- battling Wall Street for average Arkansans -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) put up a 60-second ad that casts her as the consummate Washington insider.
"When Blanche Lincoln moved her family full time to Washington D.C., she quickly became part of the place," says the ad's narrator as movers are shown on screen packing up a truck with boxes. "And that's the problem."
The commercial, which shows the moving truck making its ways to Washington, goes on to note that Lincoln took campaign contributions from health insurance companies, Goldman Sachs and large energy/oil companies. It finishes with an image of Lincoln's large home in northern Virginia as the narrator says: "Blanche Lincoln packed up and left us years ago...maybe it's time for Arkansas to send her packing for good." (By the way, it' a campaign ad classic to show the nice home in Washington owned by a Senator; the Club for Growth did the same to Tom Daschle in the 2004 South Dakota Senate race.)
The ad wars make clear that the June 8 runoff is functionally a referendum on Lincoln and whether she remains an effective Senator for the state or not. Lincoln has, unlike many of her colleagues, argued throughout the campaign that her seniority -- she is the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee -- benefits the state in a variety of ways. Halter, on the other hand, has said that Lincoln has gone Washington and is now looking out for insider interests rather than average Arkansans.
The x-factor in the race? Former President Bill Clinton who ruled Arkansas politics as governor in the 1980s and remains extremely popular in the state. Clinton will be on Arkansas to stump for Lincoln on Friday and how his visit plays with the state's voters could play a significant role in who wins in 13 days time.
2. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) has opened up a wide lead over state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner (R) in the California Republican gubernatorial primary, according to a new poll released by Whitman's campaign Tuesday.
The poll shows Whitman leading Poizner 53 percent to 27 percent among likely Republican primary voters. It also shows Whitman with higher favorability ratings than Poizner, despite a recent offensive by Poizner accusing Whitman of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Whitman, who has spent almost $70 million on her bid, had maintained a steady double-digit lead over Poizner for months, but several recent polls had shown that advantage eroding. A Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week showed Whitman leading Poizner by only 9 points.
On a conference call with reporters today, Whitman senior strategist Mike Murphy said the reason Poizner dropped is because he's "succeeded in being a negative surrogate" for Democratic frontrunner Jerry Brown (D). "They failed at having a positive candidacy," Murphy said of Poizner.
Left unsaid by Murphy is that in response to Poizner's attacks, Whitman has pivoted to focus more on touting her Republican credentials and taking a hard line stance on immigration -- running, in other words, a much more by-the-numbers primary campaign. (Privately, neutral strategists say it has worked and expect Whitman to win somewhat easily.)
Murphy said that if Whitman won the primary on June 8, she would run a "classic Reaganesque, winning-California, big-tent campaign" in the fall. Waiting in the general election is state Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) who held the state's top job in the 1970s.
3. Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) announced yesterday that two White House officials will be visiting the state in June to campaign in support of his Senate bid.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina will be traveling to Illinois in mid-June, according to a release from Giannoulias' campaign.
The dispatching of the two officials is a show of support from the White House albeit a somewhat tepid one.
Duncan is former CEO of Chicago Public schools and a onetime basketball buddy of Giannoulias'. (Duncan played at Harvard and professionally in Australia and, according to the Fix's crack basketball sources in Washington, is the best player in the Administration.)
Messina, who previously served as chief of staff to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and to then-candidate Obama's presidential campaign in 2008, has largely played a behind-the-scenes but critical role in the administration.
Still unanswered, of course, is the larger question of whether the president himself will campaign for Giannoulias in the race for his old seat. This weekend Obama will be making his first trip back to Chicago since last summer, and although he gave Giannoulias a hug and called him the state's "soon-to-be-senator" at an event during his last trip to downstate Illinois in April, the president has largely kept his distance from Giannoulias who has struggled to build momentum following the collapse of his family's bank last month.
Recent polling shows Giannoulias in a dead heat with Rep. Mark Kirk (R).
4. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) makes his first Iowa trip of the 2010 cycle today and is making the most of it with stops in three cities.
First, he'll attend a fundraising luncheon hosted by the state Republican Party in Cedar Rapids. Then he's slated to give the keynote speech at the American Future Fund's Conservative Lecture Series in Davenport. He rounds out the day at the Polk County Republican Party's spring fundraiser in Des Moines.
Gingrich has acknowledged to openly contemplating a run for president in 2012 and has said he will make a decision early next year. But, he has created some controversy of late by comparing the Obama administration to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in his new book.
Gingrich has also been actively involved in 2010 races; just yesterday, he endorsed former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) in the California gubernatorial race.
5. Republicans got a bit of good news and a bit of bad news on the primary front in Virginia on Tuesday.
First, the good news for the GOP: car dealer Scott Rigell (R), the establishment favorite against Rep. Glenn Nye (D) this fall, released a new Public Opinion Strategies poll showing him leading businessman Bert Mizusawa 47 percent to 10 in the June 8 primary in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd district.
Part of Rigell's lead can be chalked up to his high name ID, but he's got solid numbers in other data in the poll (64 percent favorable, 4 percent unfavorable) and a strong cash advantage that will likely insulate him from any last minute surge.
While the party's chances of taking down Nye may be looking up, the GOP primary in Perriello's district is a jumble with state Sen. Robert Hurt, two self-funders and a number of candidates seeking tea party support in the mix. And, now it looks like the mess might spill over into the general election.
Tea party activist Jeffrey Clark has said that if Hurt wins the primary, he will run as a third-party candidate in the name of taking down Hurt. (Fiscal conservatives oppose Hurt because of his vote for then Gov. Mark Warner's tax plan last decade.) And another candidate in the primary, Jim McKelvey, has already suggested he would line up behind just such a candidate.
It's not clear yet how formidable Clark is, but even if he can just get in the ballot and steal a few percentage points, that might be all freshman Rep.Tom Perriello needs to avoid defeat. Similar third-party candidates were able to play spoiler for the opponents of freshman Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) in 2008.
Perriello and Nye represent top targets for Republicans in 2008 and winning their districts (and districts like them across the country) is a must if the party wants to make substantial gains this fall.
With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake
May 26, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Morning Fix
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