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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Arkansas and the 'lost art of ticket splitting'

Posted by on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 2:24 PM

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FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver's political site for the New York Times, focuses today on Arkansas in a continuing series on political pecularities around the country.

The article notes the drop in support for Democratic presidential candidates since Bill Clinton ran. His homeboy status, race and the defeat of Hillary Clinton four years ago are all mentioned as potential factors. And the tide.

But much of Arkansas’s change of heart is explained by the same trend evident in other Southern states: the exodus of Southern whites from the Democratic Party, particularly working-class whites in rural areas.

This exodus has been extensive in Arkansas, one of the most rural, most religious, least-educated and poorest states in the nation.

Then the question. The popular high-level leaders that have helped keep Democrats in office down the ballot may no longer be so effective, not even with the solidly popular Mike Beebe as governor. Bottom line, from an article relying heavily on expertise of the UA's Janine Parry and Hendrix College's Jay Barth, a regular Times contributor:

Mr. Romney is a 100 percent favorite in Arkansas, according to the current FiveThirtyEight forecast. And for the foreseeable future, Republican presidential candidates will likely be able to count on carrying the state.

The bigger question is how long Arkansas’s split personality — Republican for president, largely Democratic at the state-level — can hold. Mr. Beebe, a Democrat, is still popular in the state, but “the conventional wisdom in Arkansas is that there aren’t that many Beebe’s left,” Ms. Parry said.

“The tide is clearly in one direction,” Mr. Barth added.

There may still be enough residual affinity for the Democratic Party in Arkansas that if the right presidential candidate came along at the right time, the state could be in play (in 2008, Mrs. Clinton was polling ahead of Mr. McCain in Arkansas).

But in the near future, Mr. Barth said, Arkansas may have moved beyond the reach of any Democrat — even a Clinton.

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