Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-AR, who scored a major victory Tuesday in a rough and tumble Democratic primary in her state, says the unions, who staunchly backed her opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, threw "a lot of money and a lot of anger" at her, but her message to them is: "To any group that expects legislators to be with them 100% of the time...come to the middle, figure out the common ground so we can move forward...There's not one group out there, not one legislator out there that has all the answers."
Lincoln, sounding a bit hoarse after her long night, told Fox News in an exclusive interview upon her return to Washington Wednesday afternoon, it is the anti-incumbent mood in the country and not her position against the so-called "public option," a favorite of Labor, that nearly sunk her.
"I really think what's happened is people are frustrated with Washington. They're frustrated and angry," but the senator said she plans to tackle her Republican challenger, Cong. John Boozman, with a message of "jobs and the economy," though it's likely to be an even steeper hill to climb to victory this November for her.
Boozman, for his part, released a statement Tuesday night, saying, "We are going to run an aggressive campaign making the distinctions clear on Obamacare, card check, cap-and-trade, job killing stimulus legislation and the tax-and-spend initiatives that continue to plunge our nation further into enormous debt. Our message is the right message for Arkansas. It's the right message for America."
Still, Lincoln has a formidable weapon in her corner for that fight, former President Bill Clinton, an Arkansas native and popular former governor. Crucial to her victory, Lincoln told Fox Clinton's message was loud and clear, "Extremes are not going to be the answer."
It is clear the former president will continue to campaign for the senator, though Lincoln was not sure when. But she was tougher when it came to President Obama. Though she said she would "love to have him" in Arkansas, a state that went strongly for Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, in the 2008 presidential race, , she reminded Fox in the very next breath, "When the president is on point on things that are good for Arkansas, I will work with him. When he's not, I will work hard to make it good for Arkansas."
Meanwhile, the unions, which spent about $6 million total to beat the incumbent, according to Democratic sources, do not seem to be warming up to this Democrat any more so now that she is the only one in the race.
Declining to endorse Lincoln saying that was a decision for Arkansas, the AFL-CIO's Thea Lee, told Fox's Neil Cavuto, "We made a point. Lincoln was on the wrong side on many issues...People shouldn't take support from the unions for granted," a clear warning to other Democrats in this fall's midterms.
Lee said Labor had no regrets pumping millions into supporting the losing candidate. "We came closer than anybody thought we would come...It would have been more fun to win." And Lee hit Lincoln one last time, saying, "When Senator Lincoln had a choice between standing up for working families and standing up for the corporate elite, she chose the elite."