Who are these guys? 

Or, looking for differences among the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate.

Five white guys in dark suits running for the U.S. Senate.

Democrats, the primary next Tuesday.

The winner to oppose Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee, unopposed for the Republican nomination, in the general election in November.

Superficial differences among them (since that's about all voters will have to go on):


*One looks like a mere boy — a strapping country lad.

*One looks like a farm implement dealer.

*One looks like an escapee from a cartoon, with a countenance strangely pulled and slanted, like a pictograph from the Chinese, and some of the baddest bad hair in political memory.

*One, with Nixonian scowl, darting stormy glances at the opposition, looks like Shakespeare might've thought him up — flatbed heir to the brooding monarchs and dark thanes who paced the heath and thought those big old booming thoughts.

*And one actually looks like a U.S. senator, a prototype and archetype, with the haircut, the cut of clothes, the posture, the mannerisms, and a seeming gross of Bumpersian, Gary Hartish senatorial intangibles.

Which is which? The ballot will have no thumbnail photos so the matter of choosing among them becomes less one of appearances than of name recognition.



The cartoon-looking guy with the bad hair is the only one of the five with any real name recognition. He earned it by way of earlier precinct wars — political campaigns galore, all successful, for state constitutional offices. He has served at least 10 terms each as attorney general, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state, and probably did a term or two, somewhere in between, as auditor and land commissioner, though no one can remember for sure. Though he's only 57 years old, he's been on the Arkansas political scene since the end of the Spanish-American War. Seems like he has.

One theory is that he won his first statewide election by way of name recognition, in that he had the same last name as the long-term incumbent that he succeeded — and it was thought that many voters checked the box with the familiar name and never knew the difference.

The farm implement dealer-looking guy, who's really a prominent east Arkansas lawyer, has spent more than $300,000 in this campaign trying to overcome the name-recognition deficit. One measure of how successful he's been is that one of the other candidates, the cartoon-looking guy with the bad hair, has repeatedly referred to him by the name of another prominent east Arkansas lawyer who isn't even kin to him.

Is this subtle mischief on the part of the cartoon-looking guy with the bad hair, or just flightiness? (A blind guess: just flightiness.)

The boy-looking guy is named Smith, which isn't the advantage in Arkansas politics that you might expect. This state's voters love Joneses — and exalt them at nearly every opportunity — but not Smiths. No one knows why. Not a Smith in our gubernatorial or congressional family tree.

The senator-looking guy's first name is Luther but he has abbreviated it down to a friendlier-sounding, regular guy-sounding Lu. Questions: will inattentive voters, seeing that name Lu on the ballot, assume that the candidate is a woman? And if they do, will that hurt or help his prospects?

*A study some years ago by the pollster Eugene Newsom determined that candidates with trochaic last names (that is, two syllables, with the stress on the first: Clinton, Tucker, Pryor, Bumpers, Faubus, Fulbright, etc.) won a is proportionate number of major political races in Arkansas. If that likelihood applies here, the farm implement dealer-looking guy (Bristow) and the senator-looking guy (Hardin) have the edge. The cartoon-looking guy with the bad hair might have it, too--depending on whether Bryant is a two-syllable name. Residents of the town of Bryant (Saline County) tend toward a one-syllable pronunciation — Brint, with a long eye-sounding iin the middle. Which might suggest that the cartoon-looking guy with the bad hair won't carry Saline County but should do well elsewhere in the state. In any event, the wacked-out Shakespeare character-looking guy and the boy-looking guy are, in this way of looking at the race, screwed.


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