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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Is Arkansas a Legit Swing State?

Posted by DavidNYC

Though lately I've been more sanguine about AR, I've still been a bit hesitant to consider it in the top tier of tossup swing states. But reader Arkansas native LiberalAce makes an eloquent argument for Arkansas in the comments which I think merits promotion to the main page:

I think you may be selling Arkansas short. The latest Rasmussen poll has Bush and Kerry tied. [At 45-45. - David] 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. [It was 51-46, Nader at 1.5. - David] 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.

I agree with much of the above, though I'm not an especially big believer in the power of VP picks to bring votes. What still concerns me most, however, was the size of the margin in 2000. AR was (depending on how you slice it) either the 12th- or 14th-closest state, which isn't all that close. Put another way, that's the second-biggest margin (after WV) of all the red states we're seriously targeting. So I still have a hard time seeing us pick up 5 points in AR but not getting 2 points in Ohio. That said, if we can sneak in and snag AR while the GOP has its back turned, more power to us!

LiberalAce also suggests that Clinton-related wounds have healed in the past four years. I had previously wondered how the Big Dog would be received in his home state - in other words, should we send him out on the stump? LiberalAce, back to you for that question.

P.S. Kossaks are a-chatterin' about the AR polls numbers, as well as some new Oregon numbers which show us ahead narrowly at 48-46.

Posted at 02:24 PM in Arkansas | Technorati


Arkansas is definitely winnable with the right message from Kerry. Kerry needs to come up with a message that appeals to rural voters. Like better health care and jobs. Get them to stop thinking about decisive issues like guns and gays. I have a feeling Arkansas will trend back towards Bush, because of its conservative roots (Clinton carried it because he was gov), but I guess the Dems have a shot if Kerry picks a Southern VP and comes up with a good message.

Posted by: Rock_nj at May 4, 2004 07:19 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think it'll definitely be a close race and I don't believe the GOP will have its back turned. Bush is well aware of Arkansas, has close connections in the state - though some are now either in Washington or have been voted out of office, and will make Arkansas a big target, for what its' 6EVs are worth.

If Edwards is the VP, I'd like to see him campaign in Arkansas, and though I generally agree with you about the power of VP picks in elections, I think Edwards or General Wesley Clark can make a significant difference here. If Clark were the VP, I'd expect Kerry to pick up Arkansas without question, but I view Clark as an unlikely running mate for Kerry. The same could be said of Hillary Clinton, but that's even more unlikely to happen.

Arkies haven't completely forgiven Bill Clinton, but time has helped heal the wound. I have to believe that the reason Arkansas wasn't closer than 5 points in 2000 was a reaction to the embarrassment many thought that Clinton had caused the State. However, Clinton is still a source of great pride and I certainly expect him to stump for Kerry in the state.

Arkansas is an odd state. Geographically speaking, it's not a true southern, southwestern, or plains state and is often somewhat misunderstood elsewhere around the nation. It's a mix of all the above regions, with some outside influence weaved in here and there. Politically speaking, I suspect it's sort of like New Mexico, but New Mexico probably has more high-intellect liberals and fewer rich conservatives. Putting this all together, I don't believe Arkansas is as conservative as its neighbors or states in the region in general.

Rock_nj is right about the message needed for Arkansas, although Arkansas probably has a larger gay community than he realizes - meaning that shying away from gay issues probably isn't any more important than elsewhere in the nation - but gun rights, jobs, and healthcare are all big issues here.

As noted in a previous post, I think Arkansas is quickly becoming more liberal and is probably somewhat more than it was in 2000. This should help close the gap in 2000 as well.

You're probably correct that if Kerry carries Arkansas he'll probably also carry Ohio or Florida, but I don't think carring Arkansas without the other two is out of the question. The Kerry campaign doesn't seem to have written off Arkansas yet and doing so would be a big mistake. Under the right circumstances, I think Arkansas could be the deciding state.

Posted by: LiberalAce at May 4, 2004 10:25 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment


I want to add one more thing to the previous post. While the margins in the 2000 polls are obviously relevant, I think you may be giving them too much respect. Remember, Gore carried Pennsylvania by 4 in 2000 and now it's a tossup.

Also, I'll add that since 2000 Arkansas has added a Democrat Senator in Mark Pryor, having voted Republican Tim Hutchinson (the brother of former Arkansas congressman, and current DHS Under Secretary for Border & Transportation Security, Asa Hutchinson) out of office, after divorcing his wife to marry an aide.

With all that's happened since 2000, I don't think the post-election map will completely mirror that of 2000.

Posted by: LiberalAce at May 4, 2004 10:55 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Thing about Arkansas (one of my favourite states, BTW) is that it's regionally polarised... basically the part of AR in the Deep South (CD's 1 and 4) votes strongly Democrat (AR-1 is Yellow Dog land (and is extremely poor) while AR-4 has a large Black population) and the Ozarks (AR-3) are more mid-westernish and are solidly GOP. AR-2 (Little Rock and surrounds) is more of a swing district... it went for Clinton in 92 and 96 while going for Dubya in 00.
My guestimate right now is that AR will be decided by which party gets it's base out.

Posted by: Al at May 5, 2004 04:51 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

How can you base one of your arguments that Arkansas will go Kerry and the Dallas Cowboys in the same argument? Arkansas will clearly go Bush. The economy is on an upswing and lets not forget the Gay Marriage issue.

Posted by: Howard at May 13, 2004 12:04 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Al is right-on with his analysis of the regional polarization of Arkansas.

In response to Howard, I mostly threw in the Dallas Cowboy bit for amusement, but I do suspect there is some truth in it. Afterall, Bush wants to be known as a Texan and if you're from Arkansas, then you should be well aware of how well we (dis)like Texas. However, I'm not trying to make much out of it and I doubt it will have much of an effect on how Arkansas votes in November.

Another reason why Arkansas could go to Kerry is because Arkies hate politicians! During all of the years which Clinton was Governor, I remember always thinking to myself: "Why does Clinton always win, and yet, no one ever admits to voting for him?" Clinton always won because he was a good Governor, but, in my view, Arkies spend more time looking for reasons to vote an incumbant out of office than citizens of most states. President Bush, with all the division he has created, is a perfect candidate for Arkies to vote out of office come November. He's certainly given them plenty of reasons for doing so.

I truly believe that Arkansas is more of a viable swing state than Louisiana and probably others, such as Arizona, Colorado, and Missouri. As Al noted, southern Arkansas consists of yellow-dog Democrats, but, ironically, Northern Louisiana, which is very similar demographically, seems to be mostly Republican. Swing votes in this region could play a large role in the campaign goals of Kerry and Bush in both states. It would be wise for the Kerry campaign to make a visit here and talk about jobs, the economy, healthcare, etc.

Posted by: LiberalAce at May 13, 2004 04:06 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

According to the Rasmussen Reports, dated May 3, 51% believe the economy is growing worse, but in reality it is getting better. This will be evident in the November Election. Arkies also prefer Bush over Kerry when it comes to National Defense. Although the polls show it being close, with the addition of Ralph Nader, who is not included in the Rasmussen Report, the state will go to Bush.

Posted by: Howard at May 13, 2004 07:41 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The economy may be getting a little better, but I don't believe we'll see a drastic improvement. And unless there is a some big improvement, I expect the economy will continue to be a sore spot for the Bush campaign.

Consumer confidence indices have been pretty stagnant lately. My suspicion is that they won't change too much until there is some drastic improvement in the economy, which I don't see happening as long as Bush is President. The economy has been teetering up and down, but it's been doing so after an economic downturn.

In addition, while I consider the economy an important issue in Arkansas, I don't think it's the only issue. I can imagine Arkies thinking of good economic times and remembering Clinton. Thus, they may come to the rightful conclusion that Kerry will offer similar economic progress.

Ralph Nader received less than 1.5% of the vote in Arkansas last time and I doubt he'll get that much this time, if he stays in the election. Arkansas may go to Bush, but I don't see how you can be so certain. I believe it's leaning toward Kerry myself, but the election is still 7 months away and anything could happen in the meantime.

Posted by: LiberalAce at May 13, 2004 09:52 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Funny how two weeks change everything.
I'm reading the comments above about how Clark wouldn't make a good running mate for Kerry. This was all written in early May.
Now, we're at the end of the month - the economy is allegedly improving, but Iraq is blowing up in Bush's face.
Time to call in the General.
It's been shown in poll after poll after poll that Kerry is doing well on his own against Bush on economic, social and other domestic matters; however, he's falling short against Bush on matters of national security and foreign policy.
The best way for him to pick up, not only Arkansas, but the other swing states, particularly in the South, is to put Clark on the ticket.
BTW, what exactly makes up a swing state? My home state, Tennessee, is never included, but it voted for Bush by less than 5 percent, has voted for a Democratic governor since it voted for Bush and went for Clinton both times. I thought that was the criteria that pollsters looked at when making this decision.
Also - the most recently poll I saw had it Bush 48 and Kerry 44 with a 4 percent MOE - a statistical dead heat - and this was taken BEFORE the 9/11 Commission hearings and the Iraqi prison scandal.
I think the Democrats better get down to Tennessee - pronto.

Posted by: Lara at May 24, 2004 11:06 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment