By Markos Moulitsas - 06/30/09 02:51 PM EDT
Although the Republican presidential nominee has won this state in every cycle since 1996, the state remains solidly Democratic. Democrats hold the governor’s mansion, as well as the other five statewide elected offices. Democrats enjoy massive advantages in the State Legislature: 27-8 in the Senate and 72-28 in the House. At the federal level, Democrats represent 75 percent of its congressional districts, while both Senate seats are blue.
Unlike most of its Southern counterparts, the Arkansas Democratic Party hasn’t withered in the face of Dixie hostility toward national Democrats. This has left Arkansas Republicans with a woefully weak bench for federal office. Mike Huckabee, the only Arkansas Republican to have enjoyed recent success at the statewide level, has focused his energies on his national ambitions. In 2008, freshman Senate incumbent Mark Pryor ran unopposed, an embarrassing recruiting failure for Razorback Republicans — after all, incumbents are never more vulnerable than in their first reelection effort.
Yet that 2008 failure is starting to pale in comparison to the hilarity and hijinks surrounding the GOP’s search for a 2010 opponent for incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln.
The fun started with Arkansas state Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren. Speaking at a party meeting, Hendren referred to New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D) as “that Jew,” then spent the next week digging himself into a deeper hole. He told a local blogger, “I was attempting to explain that unlike Sen. Schumer, I believe in traditional values, like we used to see on ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’ ” Hendren then told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he had simply forgotten Schumer’s name, and lamented that his slur had obscured his more important point — that he wants to drag America back to 1960.
Then Tom Cox, president of the Arkansas Tea Party organization, threw his hat in the ring. But his rollout angered other activists who thought Cox’s cheesy announcement at a tea party rally (wearing a red coat, no less) was an inappropriate hijacking of the event. News reports quickly noted that federal law enforcement had raided Cox’s boat manufacturing plant last year, arresting 13 suspected undocumented immigrants. Cox laughably responded that he feared verifying those workers’ documents would’ve landed him in legal trouble.
Enter Little Rock businessman and Huckabee pal Curtis Coleman, who is considering a run to prevent his grandchildren’s “liberty wings being clipped.” Coleman thinks global warming is a hoax, opposes fixing the healthcare system, talks about cutting budgets but swears off specifics and warned that “We’re in danger of having a whole new system of slavery where everyone sits on the steps of the Capitol waiting for a handout.” In other words, he’s a mainstream conservative in Rush Limbaugh’s Republican Party. Yet he garnered his biggest headlines for saying, “You go from here to southeast Arkansas, and you might as well get a visa and shots because I’m telling you the world changes.” Southeast Arkansas is heavily African-American.
The GOP did have a semi-respectable prospect — former U.S. Attorney and Karl Rove aide Tim Griffin kicked around the idea of a race. A Public Policy Polling survey of the race had Lincoln beating him only 46-37 — good early numbers for a challenger. But Griffin bowed out of the sweepstakes in late May, and no one else respectable seems willing to take on Lincoln and her $7 million war chest.
Perhaps it’s better to place a Republican name on the ballot than to let Lincoln run unopposed, but the end result will be the same as it was in 2008 — utter recruiting failure.
Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos