A new Arkansas poll out this morning found just 27% of voters saying they would definitely vote to reelect Blanche Lincoln with 60% saying they would not.
I'd already been thinking there was a lot of potential for Arkansas to move into the top ten list of seats most likely to flip next year, and this just confirms it. I actually think this seat is more vulnerable for Democrats than the ones in Pennsylvania or Illinois- I'd put it in a quartet with Connecticut, Colorado, and Nevada as the ones most likely to be lost next year. I'd add North Dakota to that list also if John Hoeven runs.
So what's the deal in Arkansas?
-For one thing Lincoln was leading by only 9-11 points in March when we polled there against two potential challengers with less than 20% positive name recognition even with their party labels attached. Richard Burr's vulnerability has received a lot more attention (probably because we poll it every month) but those kinds of numbers are very similar to what he has been pulling. Arkansas may be a good example of an under polled state being able to stay under the radar for a longer period of time than ones like North Carolina that get polled constantly by multiple organizations.
-Arkansas is one of the few states where Barack Obama did worse than John Kerry- and he did a lot worse- losing by almost twice as large a margin. Arkansas certainly is a state that has separated out its voting at the state level from the national level but with Obama likely very unpopular in the state and the Democratic Congress perhaps even less so, it's going to be harder for Lincoln to separate herself from that. The trend in how state voters view Democrats at the federal level is not a good one for Lincoln.
-Decreased black turnout would have a big impact here. Arkansas' population is 16% black, yet even with Obama on the ballot last year the state's exit poll showed only 12% of the electorate as African Americans. If that's true I wouldn't be surprised to see it drop into single digits without him at the top of the ticket, and white voters in Arkansas are very conservative.
This is the kind of race where the GOP doesn't need a super star candidate because the election is going to be more a referendum on Obama and Congressional Democrats as channeled through Lincoln than anything else. But they do need a candidate who has some fundraising capacity and can avoid making a fool of himself/herself- I think the GOP has a pretty strong opportunity here but it remains to be seen whether they can capitalize on it.
This is a seat that looks like it could be competitive primarily because of the shift toward Republicans nationally- what other under the radar Senate races could be more competitive than is currently expected?