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Friday, April 16, 2004

SUSA: Kerry Nipping Bush's Heels in Arkansas

Posted by DavidNYC

We haven't talked much about Arkansas yet on this site, but Markos has a nice bit of news: Kerry is just two points back of Bush according to SUSA's latest poll (PDF):

Bush: 47
Kerry: 45
Other: 5
(MOE: 4.2%)

While I've considered Arkansas one of the more marginal swing states (ie, among the least likely to go our way), this is very heartening. Though I haven't heard much about it yet, it seems that the presidential candidates have been hitting the airwaves in AR. So if Kerry's still holding his own here while (presumably) being outspent by Bush, then I like the sound of this poll even more.

After a lot of editing and re-editing, I've decided to turn this post into a more thorough look at Arkansas, so I'll back up a bit and give a little background data on the state:

Electoral Votes: 6 (6 in 2000)

2000 Results:

Bush: 51.31%
Gore: 45.86%
Nader: 1.46%
Buchanan: 0.80%

A poll result like this, of course, once again raises the issue of AR-native Wes Clark and the VP slot. I still don't think he'll get the nod, but this might strengthen the case for him. At least one observer, a poli-sci prof. at Northeastern, thinks that a strong VP candidate can add 3% in his home state. If Clark's our man, that could really be decisive here. (I'm still a fan of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, but that's a topic for another time.)

Results like these might also get some commentators to shut up about the Dems supposedly not being able to compete in the South, especially if you throw in the fact that Rasmussen has Florida neck-and-neck. If a few polls pop up showing Kerry within the MOE in, say, TN, KY, LA and VA (the last is especially likely, I think), then we might even see some articles like, "The South, Once a Sure Thing for Bush, Becomes Uncertain." I'm not saying we'll win those states - just that close polling will cause consternation in the Bush camp and, hopefully, a media pile-on.

But we might actually win Arkansas. I'd love to see it happen. Though I can't find any more recent data, I was quite surprised to see that, at least back in October, Bush was well under the Mendoza line in AR: His approval/disapproval was just 47-46. Of course, this was pre-Saddam capture (that bounce was pretty temporary, though) and also pre-all the other crap that's been going on lately - so I can only imagine Bush's numbers are equal if not worse at this point. I'd also point out that Arkansas's unemployment rate has moved up from 4.7% in Jan. 2001 to 5.5% this past February. (And as always, these numbers don't reflect the number of people who "drop out" of the labor force because they stop looking for work, thus misleadingly depressing the unemployment number.)

Oh, and get this: Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who is up for re-election, is utterly swamping her Republican opponents in the money race. She's got $3.1 million cash-on-hand right now, while the GOoPers vying to take her on literally have chump-change - just a few grand each. I mean, that's walking-around money for a weekend hunting ducks with Cheney and Scalia. Yes, this is one of our safer seats - even the NRO thinks this seat is a lock for us - but once again, it gives lie to the idea that our party can't do well in the South.

Hmm... I'm starting to like the idea of a blue Arkansas more and more, especially since Team Kerry says they plan to contest the state. So what's the next step here? I say have Lincoln and guys like former Sen. Dale Bumpers canvas the state for Kerry. I think we need locals making the case that Kerry is in-step (or at least, not wildly out-of-step) with Arkansas values, because we can be sure that Bush will try to pound the "Massachusetts liberal" meme as hard as he can. And if the polling shows he'd be a net plus, get Bill Clinton out there. Heaven only knows how much I'd like to see the Big Dawg out on the stump once again.

Posted at 10:33 PM in Arkansas | Technorati


Hi DavidNYC,

Being from Arkansas, I thought I might add my perspective on this post. This is my first time to your site, so forgive me if any of this is already known.

Politically speaking, I would divide Arkansas into three distinct areas; the Central, Northwest, and Southeast areas within the state.

The Central area is the most populated region of the state with the metro area around Little Rock. It normally goes to the Democrats by slim margins.

The Southeast region is the economically poor area of the state and it also usually goes to the Democrats by slim margins as well.

The Northwest region is the key to the state. This is the home of the Walmart empire, the Tyson Chicken empire, and other rich Republicans. It is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, one of the wealthiest, has one of the highest standards of living, and has an evangelistic religious culture about it. These are prototypical Republicans.

However, in the middle of this region, is the University of Arkansas, which along with being of great pride to the area, is also in a very liberal town, as are most Universities. The University probably has more influence on the area than anything else and I tend to think it is slowly changing the way people vote in the region.

In addition to the University, there is also a matter of the influx of Democrat voters to the region. After Arizona, I believe more Californians are moving to this region than any other in the nation. In addition, there is a high influx of hispanic citizens, many of whom are seeking work in the Tyson Chicken plant. I believe the influx of these Democrat voters to the region is having an effect and slowly moving voter preferences toward the center of the left/right political spectrum; thus marginalizing the Republican vote.

Arkansas really isn't as conservative as the rest of the South - unlike many seem to believe - it just doesn't have a large liberal beacon like most do. Prominent Democrat politicians, such as the Clintons, Wesley Clark, and current Democrat Sen. Blanche Lincoln still have a lot of pull here. There have been stories in the local press of Lincoln being Kerry's veep, although I don't give them much credit.

In addition, local Republican politicians, mainly the Governor, are receiving a beating from Democrats and Republicans alike, which may play into the equation. However, Arkansas is still a conservative state and I predict it will go to Bush, but I wouldn't be surprised a bit if it did go to Kerry. Outside of Florida, I'd say Arkansas and Tennessee are Kerry's best hope for the South.

I'm not a political guru, but I hope Kerry picks a veep from a state with a larger electoral vote, than Arkansas' six EVs. I'd love to see Wesley Clark or Blanche Lincoln as VP and I believe either of them would easily carry Arkansas, but I'd suggest Kerry set his goals higher. He may win Arkansas regardless of what he does, but I'm not sure if the 6 EVs are going to be as important this time around.

I'm favoring Edwards, Nelson, or Graham myself. Edwards probably has the most appeal to southern and middle America voters, but if Nelson or Graham could carry Florida, that would be great also. I'm just not sure if Nelson or Graham would appeal to the rest of America.

Posted by: LiberalAce at April 17, 2004 12:37 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Also being an Arkansas native, I am going to put in my two cents worth. While that poll showing Kerry being two points behind Bush are encouraging, another one issued from Arkansas State University(ASU) show a slightly bigger margin for Bush. The one from ASU-divided into
three candidates-show Bush leading 50.9% to Kerry
receiving 42.5%. Nader comes in a distant third
at 6.6%. MOE is 3.5%. I'd call this one as a
possible pickup for Kerry especially if Nader decides to bypass Arkansas.

As far as the Senate race between Blanche
Lincoln and an unknown Republician, Senator
Blanche is the clear favorite. She, along with
the other Democratic congressional members and
Arkansas's junior senator(Mark Pryor) will clearly
campaign and support Kerry. Arkansas has one
Republician representative here and signs from
the northwest part point to a much more competitive race in his area then has been

I do believe Kerry can and will be competitive here as many Bush supporters are being
turned off by his policies. There is also the widespread feeling that Bush and his aides lied
about Iraq. Kerry, therefore, is the likely
choice of those turning against the President.

Posted by: Alex Gray at April 17, 2004 01:29 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Thank you both very much for your insightful comments. This is exactly why I created this blog: As much as I might be able to teach myself about various swing states, it's the knowledgeable locals who can really teach all the rest of us. I'm also glad to see that my first-cut analysis wasn't too far off the mark, either

By the way, if either of you know of any good blogs devoted to Arkansas politics, please let me know. And if not, you should start one!

Posted by: DavidNYC at April 17, 2004 06:25 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Having been a grassroots volunteer all my life and knowing the importance of door-to-door campaigning, the strength of the Democratic party is people, not money. And whether it is Massachusetts or Crawford, Texas, Democrats everywhere should be organized down the county and precinct level.

Posted by: Phyllis Kramer at May 2, 2004 07:07 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Thanks for some great insights into what makes Arkansas tick.

Do you think Edwards as VP would help in AR?

Posted by: AndyS at May 3, 2004 10:31 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Do you think Edwards as VP would help in AR?

Hard to say - maybe a drop. The thing is, I think if we win AR, that means we've already won FL or OH, which means that AR isn't instrumental for us.

Posted by: DavidNYC at May 4, 2004 12:51 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Hey David,

I think you may be selling Arkansas short. The latest Rasmussen poll has Bush and Kerry tied. I think Arkansas is a true swing state.

I also believe you're wrong in that if Kerry picks up Arkansas then he'll already have Ohio or Florida. I think Kerry could win Arkansas and not pick up either of the other two.

A few things to remember:

1. Arkansas is the home state of Clinton, who spent 12 years as the Governor. I doubt you've forgotten that, but it deserves mentioning.

2. Our senators and congressmen are all Democrats; except for one congressman. Arkansas has always been a Democrat state; albeit it leans toward the conservative side.

3. I think John Edwards would make a good difference in Arkansas. Edwards has the perfect southern charm to appeal to all Arkies, but what makes him stand out is his appeal to Republicans in the state. Edwards' self-made financial success will probably entice Republicans in the state more than you may think. This is a state where the "haves" all vote Republican for fiscal/business reasons and there are a lot more "haves" in the state than most people realize. Although Edwards is very supportive of the "have-nots", I don't think many of the "haves" see him that way, because of his financial success. Instead, they see him like themselves.

4. I think Arkansas went to Bush by four points in 2000. However, I think some probably voted Republican because they were embarrassed by the Monica L. bit and will be over that by now: especially with the new Clinton Library opening soon in Little Rock, which will bring new pride to the state.

5. Republicans have taken a beating in the state as of late. Our Republican Governor has greatly upset his party several times.

6. Finally, Arkies hate everything Texas; save the Dallas Cowboys, which is owned by an Arkie and viewed as a slap on Texas.

I truly believe that Arkansas is a tossup. What worries me most is that Bush will do some campaign maneuvering to provide some sort of incentive to bring jobs to the state, shortly before the election. Arkansas has lost a lot of jobs and it's a critical issue here.

Posted by: LiberalAce at May 4, 2004 04:18 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment