Favorite

Could Hillary win Arkansas? 

click to enlarge Hillary Clinton image
  • Brian Chilson

Arkansas Democrats, battered and bruised from the Obama era, are giddy at the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy in 2016, which they see as a key component of the party's political turnaround in the state. In the 2014 cycle, party elites are increasingly hopeful that direct pressure can be applied to the bleeding that began in 2008, both through Mike Ross maintaining the governorship and through narrowly recovering control of the state House. It is 2016, however, that state Democrats are focused on as the point at which the party can emerge from the Republicans' use of President Obama as key means to win votes. In 2016, the party hopes to move decisively back in the direction of its historic majority status, even as it recognizes that Arkansas will remain a competitive two-party state.

Monday's private White House lunch between the president and former first lady, senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton only heightens hopes that she is preparing to take advantage of a presumptive position for her party's nomination. Although clearly not a done deal, the structure is being built for Clinton to "hit play" and launch a second presidential candidacy. The provincial question is whether her presence at the top of the ballot would have the impact Arkansas Democrats assume.

There are several key reasons Arkansas Democrats are excited about the possibility of a Clinton candidacy. First, although it took her a while to get there, Clinton passes the "she's one of us" test that Arkansas politicians know is the first step towards electoral success here. While Clinton has spent relatively little time in Arkansas since her mother moved from Little Rock, her high profile appearances in recent months for the dedications of the city's airport and new children's library reassert her connections to the state's capital city. She also has proven vote-getting ability in the state based on the 70 percent she received in the 2008 primary. As a result of her ties to Arkansas and to her still-popular husband, Arkansas Democrats would be comfortable appearing with and speaking the name of Hillary Clinton in the state that has a history of personal relationships trumping party as a mover of votes.

Clinton also would contest Arkansas in a manner that has not taken place since Al Gore's 2000 campaign. The large margins of defeat in the last three presidential elections are partly due to the absence of a legitimate campaign operation in the state. It is unimaginable that Hillary (and Bill) Clinton would cede the state entirely in the general election even if it were ultimately an uphill climb.

These dynamics are certainly advantageous to the party. Indeed, in certain parts of Arkansas, Clinton would expand the electorate, aiding statewide Democratic candidates and perhaps local House and Senate races. What is more dubious is whether a Clinton candidacy is the game-changer that Arkansas Democrats now believe it to be.

There is much data suggesting that the Arkansas electorate has changed permanently in recent years in a way that makes the state an incredible challenge for any national Democrat, even a candidate with such deep ties to the state. The electorate shifted in its partisan leanings towards the GOP, with "independents" now increasingly "leaning" Republican in polling. Similarly, the recent dramatic shift of rural white voters in Arkansas counties that had traditionally been up for grabs seems more cemented than in the past, with those voters more thoroughly polarized and less susceptible to personal appeals.

And despite the recent appearances, the Clintons' ties to the state are weakening simply because of time — no Arkansan under age 39 was part of the 1992 electorate that sent Bill Clinton to the White House, and those who led the Clinton Arkansas operation, while still dedicated, are an aging crew.

Make no mistake, a Clinton at the top of the ticket rather than an Obama represents a major psychological difference for the state's Democrats. However, Arkansas Democrats are a bit too bullish about the positive impact of a Clinton campaign on Arkansas political dynamics. For a real turnaround in its fortunes to take place, the party needs much more than a change in the national face of the party. It needs better candidates throughout the state, modernized campaign operations and a sharper message to communicate with those voters still willing to listen.

Favorite

Speaking of Hillary Clinton

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

More by Jay Barth

  • Trans moment

    It is a moment in which trans issues are not just newly visible in entertainment but at the center of the most vibrant American civil rights battle of the day.
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Time for another talk

    As Bill Clinton started his 1982 political recovery following his shocking defeat to Frank White two years before, he took to the airwaves of Arkansas with an atypical campaign advertisement: He looked directly at the camera and apologized for having been out touch with Arkansans during his first term, including his damaging decision to raise vehicle tag fees.
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • The real targets in Trump's outreach to African Americans

    Political analysts have spent recent days asking whether Donald Trump's outreach for African-American support last week at consecutive night rallies in Michigan and Virginia will produce electoral benefit with voters who, according to a raft of surveys, are rejecting him at rates matched only by the poor showing of Barry Goldwater in 1964 after Goldwater's high-profile opposition to the Civil Rights Act.
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Can 'What's Working' work?

    Last semester, one topic was the source of an especially rich conversation in my first-year seminar course collaboratively taught with a film studies colleague. Together, two of the films we used in the class — the Jimmy Stewart classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and the 1999 dark comedy "Election" — nicely exemplify a key trend in American society over the decades: the demise of trust in democratic and social institutions in the United States.
    • Feb 12, 2015
  • SB202: short-term loss, long-term gain

    Many understandably believe the enactment of SB202 — the legislation that bars local governments from creating protected classes not presently recognized in state law — to be a significant step back for LGBT rights in Arkansas.
    • Feb 26, 2015
  • Ban the box in Little Rock

    In the latest evidence of the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement in shaping the American policy agenda, this past week has become "ban the box" week.
    • Nov 4, 2015

Most Shared

  • Who's harming women?

    Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is an Arkansas Republican. Thus, like the governor and the Republican-majority legislature, she intends to do everything she can to deny women comprehensive medical care, particularly abortion.
  • New normal

    No two presidential candidates since polling began have run up negatives as massive as those of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who yet won their parties' nominations easily. "What gives?" may be the biggest political mystery in history.
  • Additional rape charges filed against Conway doctor

    Special Prosecutor Jason Barrett has added 11 more victims to two others alleging rape by Dr. Robert Rook of Conway.
  • Big Dam Bridge 100 brings big damn complaint about celebrity rider Hincapie

    The Big Dam Bridge 100 is this weekend and one dedicated biker isn't happy about a celebrity rider, admitted doper George Hincapie.
  • Delta Cultural Center new director: Prophet Kyle T. Miller

    Kyle T. Miller, who describes himself as a "licensed and ordained prophet" and says he has been "prophesying and interpreting dreams for almost 15 years," has been named the director of the Delta Cultural Center at Helena.

Latest in Jay Barth

  • Trans moment

    It is a moment in which trans issues are not just newly visible in entertainment but at the center of the most vibrant American civil rights battle of the day.
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Time for another talk

    As Bill Clinton started his 1982 political recovery following his shocking defeat to Frank White two years before, he took to the airwaves of Arkansas with an atypical campaign advertisement: He looked directly at the camera and apologized for having been out touch with Arkansans during his first term, including his damaging decision to raise vehicle tag fees.
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • The real targets in Trump's outreach to African Americans

    Political analysts have spent recent days asking whether Donald Trump's outreach for African-American support last week at consecutive night rallies in Michigan and Virginia will produce electoral benefit with voters who, according to a raft of surveys, are rejecting him at rates matched only by the poor showing of Barry Goldwater in 1964 after Goldwater's high-profile opposition to the Civil Rights Act.
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Medical marijuana? Yes.

    • I have epilepsy seizures . My mama said I have had them since six mths.old…

    • on September 25, 2016
  • Re: Don't blame trigger warnings

    • It would seem pretty much a given that an instructor, even at the university level,…

    • on September 24, 2016
  • Re: Dope, dice, death

    • At this rate a special master will soon be needed to adjudicate the citations handed…

    • on September 24, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation