GOP could dominate Arkansas Congressional delegation
A new Congressional District rating by the Arkansas Election Line indicates that Arkansas’ Congressional delegation may see a seismic party shift come Nov. 2 — and that shift may also be felt in statewide constitutional races.
The Arkansas Election Line is produced by three political journalists based in Little Rock and is an ongoing assessment of key political races in Arkansas. Roby Brock (TalkBusiness.net), Matt Campbell (Blue Hog Report) and Jason Tolbert (tolbertreport.com) frequently analyze a race and issue a statement based on where they think the race “leans.” Their assessment is similar to those typically issued by media outlets that focus on Washington D.C. politics.
In late June, the Arkansas Election Line rated the 1st Congressional District with a “soft lean” for Democrat Chad Causey over GOP candidate Rick Crawford. The seat opened after U.S. Rep. Marion Berry, a Democrat, decided to not seek re-election.
“Part of that ‘lean’ was due to the historical voting record of the district and the fact that Causey had just come off a major primary election battle with a come-from-behind victory over Tim Wooldridge,” noted this report from TalkBusiness.net — a content partner with The City Wire.
But today (Sept. 8), the rating shifts to “leans Crawford,” which places three of Arkansas’ four U.S. House seats in the Republican camp. The Arkansas Election Line previously rated the 2nd and 3rd District in favor of the Republican candidates. Also, a mid-July Talk Business Poll showed U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Rogers and the GOP candidate in the U.S. Senate race, with a a 25-point lead over incumbent U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln. The Arkansas Election Line has rated the race as “safe Boozman.”
If political trends continue, Arkansas‘ Congressional Delegation will shift from one Republican and five Democrats to four Republicans (Rick Crawford in the 4th District; Tim Griffin in the 2nd District; Steve Womack in the 3rd District; and Boozman in the Senate) and two Democrats (U.S. Rep. Mike Ross in the 4th District and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor).
Why did the Arkansas Election Line shift the Causey-Crawford race?
“For starters, Causey’s campaign momentum has dissipated as the national Democratic brand has suffered this summer,” noted the Arkansas Election Line report. “The inherent advantage of that party label in the First District is more of an anchor this cycle. There are pockets of deep Democratic support in the district that have been softened during the last few months by national Democratic woes.”
Continuing, the AEL said: “At this juncture, voter affiliations with national Republicans seeking new leadership in Washington, D.C. appear to be overriding candidate personalities, which typically drive elections in Arkansas, even federal races. But that could change through the paid media of this campaign. Party ID versus personality may be the real contest to watch in this election cycle.”
Brock said it is possible the Arkansas Congressional delegation will shift to having just two Democrats, but believes it’s just as possible to have a 3-3 balance.
“The First District appears to be a major battleground where either candidate could win based on a variety of factors. Democrats have got to find ways to make these races about their candidates, their candidates’ personalities and positive name identification on issues, not party affiliation,” Brock explained.
Could the GOP advantage at the federal level filter down to statewide constitutional officer races? Brock says that is possible, but Democrats at the state level are less tied to the national Democratic Party.
“Because state issues aren’t necessarily wrapped up in federal issues, Republicans will have to find a way to make them intertwined. Democrats will have the challenge of keeping them separate,” he said.
Brock added that “straight-ballot voting” will likely favor Republicans, especially with lesser known races like the Land Commissioner race between Democrat L.J. Bryant and Republican John Thurston. (Follow this link to learn who is running in the statewide races.)
“I would add that if Democrats prevail this election year on the constitutional officer races, especially the down-ballot races like Secretary of State and Lt. Governor, their margins of victory will be much closer than ever before because of improved conditions for Republicans,” Brock said.