Trouble in Arkansas for Dems

Well, remember that "outsider" comment from this story about Bill Halter -- Republicans have pounced. Senate Republicans' campaign arm - the National Republican Senatorial Committee -- has hit Halter through NRSC spokeswoman Amber Marchand:

" Lincoln and Halter are both completely out of step with Arkansas’ mainstream values, and voters in this state have overwhelmingly rejected President Obama’s out-of-control spending agenda in Washington. Arkansans are tired of the status quo under the Obama Administration and they are looking to elect a Senator who will fight for much-needed checks and balances in Washington this November."


Check out, and you'll see instantly why incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-AR, who was already facing a very rough re-election effort with her abyssmal approval ratings, should be even more worried.

A fresh-faced, charming young lieutenant governor, named Bill Halter, in announcing his bid to take on Lincoln, is actually seen getting out of a pickup truck at one point in the campaign ad (is this the Scott Brown formula??) -- and even more astounding, one of the things he touts is healthcare reform.  It's not clear what version, because he rather craftily keeps it general in nature. Halter castigates Washington as "broken" - a place that's "protecting insurance company profits, instead of protecting patients and lowering healthcare costs."

Not once does Halter speak the name of his new opponent who grew up on an Arkansas farm and years ago used her own pickup truck to campaign. The two appear to share humble roots and a folksy way, but Halter appears more polished and easygoing -- but that's just a snap judgment from a pre-produced campaign spot. WAY too early to tell, for sure.

Lincoln is definitely vulnerable, though.  The fact that she would get this kind of a challenger is testament enough, and though it appears as if Halter is at once to the left of her and then to the right, this lieutenant governor has some serious potential.   He'll need to get more specific about what kind of healthcare reform he favors, not the least of which because Lincoln is on the Finance Committee and really knows her stuff.  But this very issue, coupled with another -- the so-called "card check" legislation that eases the way for workers to unionize -- has put Lincoln on serious defense with the Democratic base, so there is room for Halter to fill that void, though this is a dicey prospect in a red state.

Halter positively oozes charisma and has a nice-looking young family, and at one point in the video does something that, at one time, would have been political suicide:  he touts  his experience in the Clinton Administration while appearing in a photo standing alongside the former president in the Oval Office.   But Clinton remains a popular home state guy (and even more popular with Dems) -- so no doubt, this is strategic, and a bit of a tweak, since Halter's former boss has endorsed Lincoln.

Halter has brought in billions for scholarships through the lottery, citing "20,000 Arkansas families" who will benefit this year. And note -- he says he did this "without raising taxes." Good line to use in this conservative state.

The anti-incumbent fervor sweeping the nation is encapsulated by this Democrat, remarkably enough, as he bashes the Wall Street bailout and "gridlock, bickering, and partisan games while unemployment is at a 25-year high."   The only thing that appears to be missing is some mention of his "outsider" status ---- a ready-made script in an anti-Washington midterm election year --- but everything about this video says "outsider", even a mention of "bagging groceries" at a Kroger when Halter was a young boy.

Tough year to be an incumbent Democrat (Arkansas is the 3rd state to see a Dem incumbent challenged - recall Arlen Specter in PA and Mike Bennet in CO); we'll see if it's a tough year to be a Democrat of any variety.

One thing that could be tough for Lt. Gov. Halter --- raising cash.  One senior Democratic aide in Washington involved with campaigns tells Fox that Halter "is notoriously a lousy fundraiser." The aide said Halter "raised about $300,000 for his Lt Governor bid and incurred debt," noting that Halter will likely be "banking on raising the money for him and for Labor to run his ads."

And I would mention a Republican raring to challenge either Dem, but the list is positively too long.   So -- stay tuned for the May 18 primary.  It'll no doubt be a whopper.