GOP to Boozman: Better step it up for challenger | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, November 5, 2015

GOP to Boozman: Better step it up for challenger

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 9:23 AM

click to enlarge SEN. JOHN BOOZMAN - CNN
  • CNN
CNN's Manu Raju reports that Republican leaders have some concern about Sen. John Boozman, facing a re-election challenge from political newcomer Conner Eldridge, a Democrat.

The 64-year-old Republican, facing re-election to a second term next year, has prompted growing concern from party elders who fear he risks a repeat of past election debacles — where GOP candidates in Indiana, South Dakota, Kansas and Mississippi ran shoddy campaigns, forcing a last-ditch rescue attempt by the party establishment to try to save an endangered seat.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has recently had a serious conversation with Boozman about the state of his campaign, sources said, and plans to headline fundraisers for the Arkansas Republican to help fill his coffers. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has also flatly warned Boozman that it will not spend a penny in Arkansas if he gets into trouble, according to several people familiar with the situation.

At a recent closed-door summit with party donors in Sea Island, Georgia, Ward Baker, the NRSC's executive director, didn't mince words about Boozman's campaign. While Baker said Boozman is a "good man," he added that his campaign has been slowly "trying to climb a mountain," according to two people present. The message was clear: Republican donors need to help fill Boozman's war chest.

Thanks to leftover money, Boozman has more on hand than Eldridge, but Eldridge had outraised him $403,000 to $359,000 in the last quarter.

In an interview with CNN, Boozman acknowledged his fundraising challenges, but said it wasn't due to inattention on his part. He said that donors weren't taking his race seriously and were instead funding more heavily contested seats in traditional battlegrounds. He said that he has been highly visible back home and has worked "really hard," dismissing chatter that he could be the 2016 version of Dick Lugar, the veteran Indiana Republican who lost in 2012 due in large part to a lackluster campaign.

"He's from a family of millionaires, so that makes a difference," Boozman said of Eldridge. "It's difficult though when you are an incumbent senator and most people don't feel you have a race.

Boozman is also hampered by, let us say, a low-key style. But it didn't stop him from devastating incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010 and Arkansas has grown increasingly red. Eldridge is painting Boozman as a career politician and running as a gun-friendly, abortion-unfriendly conservative Democrat. The people of Arkansas don't know much about Boozman, if the recent Arkansas Poll is a measure. HIs approval/disapproval rating was 38-18 (44-18 among very likely voters) after six years in the Senate. Lincoln was at 43-34 when Boozman set out to take her on.

I have no doubt there's money aplenty to pour into Boozman.

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