John Boozman will enter the Arkansas Senate race this weekend as the frontrunner. He leads incumbent Blanche Lincoln by an amazing 56-33 margin in our first poll of the race.
Lincoln's approval rating has sunk to just 27%, with 62% of voters in the state disapproving of her. She's at a middling 51% even within her own party and just 17% of independents and 9% of Republicans are happy with how she's doing.
A look inside the health care issue gives a good indication of how Lincoln has managed now to get it from all sides. 61% of voters in the state oppose the President's plan, and among those folks Lincoln's approval rating is just 8% with 79% of them expressing the belief that she's too liberal. But she's managed to antagonize a lot of the people who support the Democratic health care plan as well- 36% of them think she's too conservative and her approval with them is just 57%. Barack Obama's at 95% with that same group of voters.
What it all adds up to is Boozman winning 89% of the Republican vote while Lincoln's at just 68% with Democrats. And Boozman has a 66-20 lead with independents as well.
Boozman is not all that well known- a 43% plurality of the state's voters have no opinion about him one way or the other. Among those who do 32% view him favorably to 25% unfavorably.
Because of Lincoln's precarious position we tested some other potential Democratic candidates against Boozman as well, and while most of them do better the numbers are still an indication that it will be hard for anyone to keep the seat in the party's hands. Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter basically polls the same as Lincoln, trailing 53-30. General Wesley Clark trails 51-36. Congressman Mike Ross is at a 48-37 disadvantage. And perhaps most surprising, highly popular and even more highly unlikely to run for the Senate Mike Beebe trails 44-43 in a hypothetical contest despite a 59/22 approval rating that rates among the best for any politician we've polled across the country this year.
That's an indication Arkansas just doesn't want to send another Democrat to Washington this year, at least at this point nine months before the election. Obama's at a 38/58 negative approval rating in the state, its voters are opposed to his health care plan by a 30/61 margin, and only 27% approve of the job Congressional Democrats are doing to 63% who disapprove. The Congressional GOP is not a whole lot more popular at a 29/55 approval spread, but continuing a trend we're finding everywhere we poll more than a quarter of voters in the state disapprove of both parties and they're going for Boozman over Lincoln by a 67-18 margin. If you hate everyone, you tend to 'throw the bums out' at least in hopes that things will change.
It's going to be a tough year for Democrats in Arkansas. Marion Berry and Vic Snyder already saw the writing on the wall and got out of there. Many would like to see Lincoln do the same, but it's clear that Lincoln or no Lincoln this is going to be a very tough hold for Democrats.
And finally a word on sampling since I know these poll results will be a little shocking. Those polled reported voting for John McCain by a 17 point margin- he actually won the state by 20 points so that's even a little charitable for Democrats. And the party breakdown of 36% Democrats, 32% Republicans, and 32% independents matches the 2008 electorate perfectly (even though we don't weight for party.) So as surprising as these results may be we're pretty confident they're an accurate representation of current public opinion in the state.
Full results here