Did Bill Halter benefit from a hidden conservative vote in Tuesday’s Arkansas Democratic primary against incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln, despite having run to Lincoln’s left? And will those voters be back again for Halter in three weeks’ time, when the runoff is held?
If the voting patterns of this race followed a strict left-right dynamic, we might expect to have seen Halter do well in the more urban, relatively liberal pockets of the Little Rock area, and for Lincoln to perform better in rural Arkansas.
But in fact, it was Lincoln who won Pulaski County (Little Rock), by a margin of 52%-40%, and she also won Jefferson County (Pine Bluff) by 51%-39%. Halter made up the difference and nearly caught Lincoln in the popular vote with stronger showings in many rural counties, especially in his home area of southern Arkansas. So how did this happen?
A Democratic source in Arkansas, who claimed neutrality in the race, told TPMDC that Halter benefited from an anti-incumbent conservative vote in areas of the state where local offices are still intensely dominated by the Democratic Party, going for Halter by virtue of being Lincoln’s most well-known opponent.
“So while these people have seen all the negative advertising from the health care stuff going back to last August, and they’re upset about it — and these folks didn’t vote for the president either — they’re still going to vote in a Democratic primary,” the source said.
And the source further explained that this could present a difficulty for Halter, if many of those voters don’t show up again: “I think it’s these people that wanted to vote for their local officials, but they’re not gonna come back out, because they wanted to vote for their sheriff or county judge or mayor. But those races have already been decided.”
In addition, Lincoln could possibly benefit from the Democratic runoffs for the open House seats in the First and Second Congressional Districts, areas where she actually did well in the largest counties.