A story over at TPMDC brings up the constantly contradictory behavior of Blanche Lincoln over the past year. This includes both contradictions in her voting record and the effects on her campaign.
The streak continues: Lincoln has taken to attacking “Washington, D.C. unions” for supporting Halter in the primary–but only after publicly soliciting their support herself.
All of these examples point to the fact that for the past year, Lincoln has been thinking only one step ahead–and when confronted with unforeseen circumstances, abruptly switches course, without regard for the lengthy paper trail behind her. It’s been a bumpy journey.
All in all, though, it’s unclear how Lincoln’s swerving has affected her re-election prospects. Recent polling data indicates that her lead over Halter is shrinking and her disapproval ratings remain sky high. But they also show her gaining ground on her likely general election opponent, state Rep. John Boozman.
I am glad he calls her out for her obvious sore loser tactics in attacking national unions after having lost their endorsement to Halter. She is all for them when they endorse her, but when they choose someone else, they are the source of all that is wrong in politics according to her. This is really becoming a pattern for Lincoln. She betrays a base of her support, they don’t take it lying down, then she attacks her former allies as the source of all that ails us. She is losing a lot of allies in a very important time in her political career.
What allies she is relying on is the Arkansas Democratic political establishment. This can be seen most directly in Mark Pryor’s strange vote against the reconciliation fixes to health care reform:
Also in January, with the fate of health care on the line, Lincoln leapt to the front of the pack to announce her opposition to using the reconciliation process to fix the Senate bill, which serves as the basis of reform. This put her in the strange position of having voted for a major health care overhaul–complete with controversial provisions like the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’–only to turn around oppose the one viable effort to make the bill more popular.
Early on it looked like several conservative Democrats might join Lincoln in opposing the reconciliation route, but when it came time to vote, almost all Democrats voted to pass the package of fixes. The exceptions were Nelson, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Lincoln herself. After the vote, Pryor issued a statement arguing that the reconciliation bill wasn’t in Arkansas’ best interest. But Senate aides say his vote was designed to give Lincoln cover. She had dug herself in too deeply change course.
The report suggests that Mark Pryor voted against taking out the “Cornhusker Kickback” just to try to deflect some blame from Lincoln because she had already committed to voting against the bill (even though it made the bill more popular). If this is true, both of our U.S. Senators actually supported the bill. Blanche Lincoln only voted against it because she had already taken a right wing turn she couldn’t go back on. Pryor only voted against it to help out someone else in the Arkansas Democratic establishment. This is exactly what this primary election is about. Arkansas was simply not being represented in the Senate for this vote. Even though Arkansans and Arkansas Democrats in large margins (and apparently the Senators themselves) supported the fixes, they voted against the bill for purely questionable political reasons.
Another example of her attacking her former allies is the speech/question she gave to Obama about how we need to stand up to “extremists” in our own party, like the League of Conservation Voters who dared to question her commitment to the environment when she consistently voted against its best interests.
The most glaring example is her double back on the public option, going from a supporter of the policy to so adamantly against it that she is willing to filibuster the entirety of health care reform to stop it. The switch was so stark that her website still declared her support for the public option as she announced her intent to filibuster health care reform over it in late November. I recall her voting against the public option earlier than that though. She voted against it in the Senate Finance Committee (by proxy of course) and neglected to say why she did so. She did that while she was still on the record as supporting the public option. I called her office and was told by a higher up that she only voted against it because she didn’t think it could get the votes. So, either she never intended to support the public option or she changed her mind over time, but I am pretty sure the answer I received was a blow off since they just didn’t really want to explain her reasons for opposition. Maybe it has something to do with all those donations from the health insurance industry?
Beutler notes that Blanche Lincoln has gained on the Republicans, but so has Bill Halter. This is as I said over a month ago when a particularly bad poll for Democrats came out.
We must assume that things will change as time moves on. Any Democrat will close this gap with Boozman unless they run a horrible campaign.
The success of the Health Care Reform bill (despite Blanche Lincoln) will help Democrats in November by both increasing Democrats’ likelihood to turn out and by showing they are able to govern. The content of the bill will also be a plus for those who supported it and may help win over some independents in the long run.
Anyway, the point here is that it wasn’t Lincoln’s swing to the right that helped her against the Republicans. The positive movement in the polls is better explained by an improvement in the view of Democrats in general, reflected in Halter’s even better upwards movement. The swing to the right does alienate her base. This is reflected by Halter’s ease of picking up strong momentum against an incumbent Senator in such a short period of time. That would likely also effect turn out in November if Lincoln is the nominee. But as the polls show, Halter also has the advantage over Republicans even without the turnout argument.
These points just further show Lincoln’s inconsistency and tendency to turn on her former allies. The Arkansas Democratic establishment is doing its best to protect her, but the more people hear about Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, they more they like, giving him the momentum.