Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lincoln Trouble

Blanche Lincoln's approval rating in Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District, where Barack Obama had his strongest performance in the state last year, is just 27%.

55% of voters disapprove of the job she's doing. It's predictable that 70% of Republicans give her poor marks but more surprising is that independents break down 64/19 against her and even among Democrats just 43% give her good marks to 37% disapproving.

In a pair of hypothetical 2010 contests we looked at Lincoln trails Gilbert Baker 43-38 and Stanley Reed 42-39, despite the relative anonymity of the Republican duo. 67% of voters have no opinion of Baker and 78% are ambivalent toward Reed.

Certainly some of Lincoln's problems are due to the national political climate, which is largely beyond her control. 54% of voters in the district generally have an unfavorable opinion of the Democrats in Congress and 52% of them disapprove of Obama's job performance.

Her poor numbers with Democrats are of her own doing though, and are considerably worse than those of Obama, Vic Snyder, and Mark Pryor. Few of the Democrats who dislike her will go so far as to vote Republican next year, but as we saw in Virginia and New Jersey this year they might not show up to vote for a candidate they're not enthusiastic about and that could have serious repercussions for the rest of the state's Congressional Democrats and not just Lincoln.

It's hard to say what she should do to get on the path back to popularity though. 30% of Democrats in the district think she's too conservative but 49% of the independents think she's too liberal. Those are the two groups she needs to do a lot better with to win reelection, and it's not clear what she could do to appease both of them. To win next year Lincoln may need for her eventual Republican opponent to self destruct, which certainly would not be unprecedented. Tim Hutchinson's doing so provided Democrats one of their few bright spots on a dreary 2002 election night.

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