5.21.2010

Ba-Bye Blanche Lincoln, Hello Bill Halter

In all of the hubbub of Rand Paul for the past two days (see here & here), I never got around to posting about Arkansas Lt. Governor Bill Halter's incredible showing in his race to defeat Corp. Conservadem Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who had a terrible time trying to cast a vote for herself on election day. Hilarity ensues.

Well, Bill Halter didn't just hold her below 50% to force a run-off, but he kept her within a couple points of him (which is much better than all polls indicated he would do).

That means the undecided vote broke HEAVILY for Halter, as is usually the case -- undecideds generally break for the challenger, which is why an incumbent under 50 percent is generally in danger. Our own R2K polling was the closest to the mark, showing a 43-35 Lincoln lead.

Markos points out that observers in Arkansas say that ALL the momentum is with Halter:
Nice:

Halter went from down thirteen points in the first primary poll on March 25 to within two points on election night. Lincoln’s support has remained in the low 40’s the entire time while Halter steadily gobbled up the undecided voters.

Halter now has all the momentum going into the runoff and Lincoln’s campaign has not demonstrated that they are able to stop the bleeding. So far their message has been inconsistent and has played into Halter’s strategy of tapping into the anti-incumbent sentiment. He has somehow avoided being painted as a liberal in spite of largely enjoying the support of national liberal groups and unions.

The irony is that these groups will play an important role in the runoff election where the get out the vote effort is critical. Unions are perhaps the best organization for getting their voters to the polls. This gives Halter a decided GOTV advantage in a very close election [...]

Bottom line, it is close but advantage Halter.

And the unions, who backed Bill Halter big time, aren't going to let up on Lincoln during the run-off either:
AFSCME will put $1.4 million into Arkansas runoff

The giant public workers union AFSCME will invest $1.4 million in the Arkansas Senate race, the union's president told POLITICO, a massive sum in a small state that will boost the runoff chances of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

The union is sending about 50 staffers to Arkansas for the race's last three weeks, with a particular focus on rallying African-American voters behind Halter, the president, Gerald McEntee, said, describing an independent expenditure campaign on a scale likely to dominate the state's airwaves.

AFSCME is one of several unions eager to punish Sen. Blanche Lincoln for her opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make organizing easier, and other stances. McEntee referred to her as "a Democrat in name only," "Bailout Blanche" and "Wal-Mart's queen."

read more....

Organized Labor Has More in Store for Arkansas

Labor has spent at least $4.5 million to back Halter -- or, just as accurately, to oppose Lincoln. With Lincoln's poll numbers sagging over the past year, labor encouraged Halter to challenge her. Lincoln had frustrated organized labor for years by waffling on the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to form unions. (It was formerly labor's top legislative goal -- over and above health care -- though it's not moving anywhere at the moment.)

[snip]

The lieutenant governor nearly tied the incumbent, trailing 42.5% to 44.3%, and with neither candidate garnering 50%, a June run-off was mandated. Halter got a lot of help from the third candidate in the race, D.C. Morrison, who managed to rake in a higher-than-expected 13% of the vote.

So labor has three weeks to push Halter over the edge.

"We'll continue to look at the most effective ways to communicate with the public, focusing on either undecideds or weaker supporters, as well as supporters of Morrison," said John Youngdahl, political director of the Service Employees International Union, which spent $1.5 million in the state already.

Before Tuesday's result, it looked as if unions wouldn't get much for the millions they put in. Increased credibility, in showing they're willing to cause trouble for an incumbent who won't vote their way, was how a loss in Arkansas was being spun, as a Lincoln win appeared destined.

Now Halter has some momentum.

read more....

In Arkansas, dissatisfied labor unions worked hard against Lincoln

Working America started eight weeks ago with six organizers. At its peak, the group sent 45 paid workers a day to knock on doors, Holmes said. In all, the group spoke to about 90,000 people in 27 towns and sent 1.75 million pieces of pro-Halter mail.

A pairing of the Service Employees International Union and the Communications Workers of America reached an additional 85,400 prospective voters who agreed to discuss the Senate campaign, said Jon Youngdahl, SEIU national political director.

SEIU, which has only 1,000 members in the state, spent more than $1.5 million, including a $1 million television buy, Youngdahl said. The national AFL-CIO spent $3 million or more on Halter's behalf, spokesman Eddie Vale said.

The effort was fruitful: Lincoln and Halter are heading to a June 8 runoff.

That pleased Halter, who said Tuesday evening that his campaign was "on the way to a very, very good night."

"Three weeks from today," Halter said, "we're going to finish the job."

read more...

Markos also reminded us what happened the last time there was this kind of run-off:
Why does a runoff matter? Let's see what happened in Arkansas, in a similar situation, on May 19, 1998:

Blanche Lincoln 140,825 45.4%
Winston Bryant 85,066 27.4%
Scott Ferguson 43,351 14.0%
Nate Coulter 40,895 13.2%

Total votes: 310,137

Then three weeks later, in the runoff:

Blanche Lincoln 132,032 62.8%
Winston Bryant 78,192 37.2%

Total votes: 210,224

That's a drop off of about a third of voters, and it's the most motivated who turn out in a runoff. And who are the most motivated? The rebels, the insurgents, the rabble rousers -- those most motivated to give the unpopular incumbent her walking papers.

Via Bill Halter for US Senate: Runoff in Arkansas - we need your help
The Arkansas Senate primary now goes to a runoff, to be decided in less than three weeks on Tuesday June 8th. The latest poll (taken by DFA right after the election) has Bill Halter winning the runoff 48% to 46%. And Arkansas Election Line now rates this race as Lean Halter.

We need your help to win. Blanche Lincoln and her corporate backers have and will spend millions, trying to buy this Senate seat instead of letting the people decide for themselves. Bill Halter is standing up for working families, and holding Wall Street accountable. He's their enemy #1.

If we're going to win on June 8th, we need you to get involved.

We need you to sign up for our email list today for more news and updates, and actions you can take. Click here to get on board.

It's because of people like you that we've gotten this far. You've told your friends about this campaign. You've volunteered and phonebanked from home, calling tens of thousands of voters on Election Day and helping us win. You joined us on Election Night in person and online. And you've given us money to continue our campaign for change.

We need you on our team. Click here to join us today.

Thank you. Together, we’re going to win this thing on June 8th.



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