Friday, July 18, 2008

McCain has a Sizable Lead in Arkansas

The latest Rasmussen poll in Arkansas has Sen. John McCain with a sizable lead. Rasmussen currently has McCain leading Barack Obama by a 13 point margin with McCain earning 52% to Obama’s 39%. This is no surprise in a state that has voted for the Republican Presidential candidate in every election since voting for President Reagan in 1980 with the exception of the two years Arkansas voted for Bill Clinton. Although there is much work to be done by the McCain Campaign, there is little doubt that Arkansas will stay a red state in this year’s Presidential election.

However, the question remains as to how a state that is so bright red continues to have a Congressional Delegation and a state legislature so dominated by the Democrats. Some Republicans such as columnist David Sanders for the Arkansas News Bureau have placed this blame on our former Republican Governor Mike Huckabee. I recently visited with Sanders and he told me that unlike several other Republican Governors in the South, Huckabee did not spend enough time Party building while in office. He may have a point but I thought that the Governor was supposed to spend most of his time doing his job rather than Party building.

My theory has more to do with Arkansas Democrats than with Arkansas Republicans. I believe that the Democratic Party of Arkansas made a tactical move in the mid-90s that the Republican Party of Arkansas has had a difficult time countering. After the Democrats suffered numerous defeats including the Governor’s Office, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, a U.S. Senate race, two U.S. Congressional races, and several seats in the state legislature, they began to realize that in order to win in Arkansas, they had to run as Social Conservatives. They realized that in a state where 80% of voters identify themselves as pro-life, they could not win as the Party of John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi. Pro-life and pro-gun Sen. David Pryor is a textbook example of this. He was part of the seven Democrats, who along with seven Republicans formed the group of fourteen in the Senate that brokered a compromise to allow the nominations of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito to the Supreme Court. In order to win in Arkansas, Republicans will have to learn how to draw out the fundamental differences on the size and scope of government while holding true to their core beliefs on key social issues such as the sanctity of life. At the same time, Arkansas voters need to realize that electing socially conservative Democrats keep the liberal Democrats, such as Speaker Pelosi, in power.

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