The latest round of poll numbers released today by Talk Business are so positive for Arkansas Republicans that I cannot help but warn that they should be taken with cautious optimism. The only concern is that Republicans will see this data and believe the election is already fought and won, when in fact, it has hardly begun. But there can be no doubt that state Republicans have the most clear opportunity to win the state legislature than at any time in Arkansas history.
This election cycle, Republicans have finally gained the generic advantage that has always been held by the Democrats. This means that all other things being equal, Arkansas voters are more likely to pull the lever for the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate. The six-point advantage is significant with a large group of undecided voters.
The key swing in this poll is the shift in independent voters where Republicans hold an almost three-to-one lead. With this group, 31 percent prefer the Republican state legislative candidate while only 13.5 percent prefer the Democratic candidate. In fact with independents, the Democratic candidate only holds a one point advantage over a third party candidate.
The key to remember here is that with about 14 months before the election there remains a large group of undecided voters still up for grabs – 31 percent overall and 43 percent of independents. The challenge for Democrats will be to separate themselves from national politics during a year in which the Presidential election will dominate the headlines. As reported yesterday, Arkansans disapprove of President Obama by a two-to-one margin. Among the two-thirds of the state that disapprove, Republican state legislative candidates are preferred by 51 percent versus 8 percent for the Democratic candidate – that is an unbelievable six-to-one advantage.
The other significant finding is that the Tea Party is very favorably viewed in Arkansas with 41 percent having a favorable opinion compared to 37 percent unfavorable. Again, among the key group of independents, the Tea Party is viewed favorably by 50 percent compared to only 30 percent unfavorably. The attempt by Democrats to paint Tea Party members as extremists has failed.
Republicans should take this as a much like a pre-season ranking in football. Right now, Republicans are ranked number one, undecideds are ranked number two, and Democrats are number three. But this is a long season. Right now, candidate recruitment is the key. If Republicans recruit top-notch, common sense conservative candidates who are well respected in their districts and adequately fund these candidate’s campaigns, there is no doubt they will achieve their goal of taking majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.