Gilbert Baker is viewed favorably by 7% of voters in Arkansas. For Curtis Coleman it's 6% and Tom Cotton it's 4%.
The immediate conclusion from those numbers would logically be that Republicans have no chance of beating Blanche Lincoln for reelection in Arkansas. But in a state where the President has the support of less than 30% of the electorate on health care anything's possible right now and despite their virtually nonexistent name recognition Baker, Coleman, and Cotton are all in statistical ties with Lincoln in potential head to head contests.
Lincoln polls at 40% against all three of the Republicans. Baker and Coleman lead her with 42 and 41% respectively, while Cotton trails with 39%.
The numbers of course are more a reflection on Lincoln's standing than that of the Republicans. Her approval rating is now 36%, with 44% of voters in the state disapproving of the job she's doing. That's a 13 point downward shift in her net approval rating, from 45/40 when we measured it in March. That largely tracks the 18 point decline in the President's popularity over that time.
Lincoln's approval rating is 14% with Republicans and she only gets 9% of the GOP vote in the head to head contests, that's no surprise. Her bigger problems are with Democrats and independents.
Among all Democrats her approval is a relatively weak 62%. But among conservative Democrats it's just 45%. While liberal unrest about her actions in Washington has perhaps received more attention her approval with them is 24 points higher, at 69%. Matched against the Republicans Lincoln averages just a 57-25 advantage with the conservative wing of her party, a standing she'll probably need to improve on before next November.
Although the dissatisfaction of liberals within her party may not be as a big of a numerical concern for Lincoln as the conservatives, there are some issues there as well. Her approval rating among voters who think that Obama is doing a good job is just 63% with 21% disapproving and 16% unsure. That failure to win over many of Obama's proponents is an indication that the President's unpopularity in the state can't be held completely responsible for Lincoln's difficulties. She does nevertheless win nearly 80% in the head to heads with the Republicans because she's clearly a more acceptable choice for those voters than the alternative but then the concern in an off year election becomes whether those folks even show up if they're not enthusiastic about casting a vote for Lincoln.
If Lincoln has perhaps seemed indecisive at times you can see why when she has it coming at her from both ends of her party.
Arkansas has the most conservative independents of any state we've polled in this year and it shows in Lincoln's numbers with that group. Just 27% of them approve of her job performance to 51% disapproving. She has a 21 point deficit in the horse race with that group against Baker and Coleman and a 16 point disadvantage against Cotton.
So what's the bottom line here? Clearly Lincoln could be beaten, but there are several reasons why she might survive too. The first is that none of her potential Republican opponents have shown the ability yet to raise the money to run a strong campaign. Whoever emerges as her opponent is also going to need to be able to keep their foot out of their mouth, something that's been a problem for some potential foes. The second is that Democrats nationally are in a recession right now and that goes a long way toward explaining these numbers. But if the economy starts turning around by this time next year and the folks in power get the credit, all of their folks running for reelection will get lifted up, including Lincoln. Republicans have an opportunity here but it remains to be seen whether they can take advantage of it.
Full results here