Democrats fail to land House recruits in Arkansas

Democrats were left without a top-tier challenger to freshman Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) and didn't get their top candidate to replace retiring Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), leaving them in a weak position for 2012 as Arkansas's election filing period closed Thursday.

Democrats held three of the state's four House seats before the 2010 elections, but now face the very real possibility of being shut out there after 2012.

Former state Rep. Jay Martin (D), the Democrats' preferred candidate to challenge Griffin, changed his mind shortly before the filing deadline and decided not to run. Martin is the second potentially strong candidate to decide against a run this week: State Democratic Party Chairman Will Bond also announced shortly before the filing deadline that he wouldn't challenge Griffin.

The filing deadline for the seat was Thursday. Democrats' top remaining candidate for the seat is former state Rep. Herb Rule (D), who hasn't held political office in nearly 30 years.

The district is GOP-leaning at the presidential level but was long held by conservative Democrats, and is the most Democratic district in the state. Under the new lines, President Obama would have won 44 percent of its vote in 2008.

In the race to replace retiring Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Democrats failed to land any of their initial recruits, although they have 2010 Senate candidate D.C. Morrison, pastor and attorney Q. Byrum Hurst and state Sen. Gene Jeffress in the race. Republicans have a number of candidates, including former U.S. Army Capt. Tom Cotton, whom many conservative groups have endorsed.

This district would have given Obama just 37 percent of its vote under the new lines, and will be a tough seat for Democrats to hold.

The lack of a strong candidate here hurts their chances at retaking control of the House, which they need 26 seats to win.

They had better success recruiting against freshman Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), with a few potentially strong recruits including state Rep. Clark Hall (D). While this district is also GOP-leaning, this might be their best shot at winning one of the four seats in the state: Polls have shown Crawford may be vulnerable to a challenge here, and the district has a large number of African Americans who are likely to come out to vote because of President Obama's presence on the ticket.

This post was updated at 10:40 a.m.