Democratic primary (No trend lines, Moe 5%)
Lincoln (D) 42
Halter (D) 26
Rumors abound that Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is considering a primary challenge against obnoxious Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Lincoln's approval ratings among Democrats are 62 favorable, 32 unfavorable. For Halter, they are 55-11, a far better spread. And while a third of Democrats don't know enough about Halter to have an opinion, Lincoln has almost universal name ID (94%).
But even better for Halter are the favorability numbers among independents -- 37-55 for Lincoln, 32-24 for Halter (with 44% having no opinion).
We asked our Democratic sample what would happen if Lincoln joined a Republican filibuster against the health care reform plan currently being debate in the Senate:
If Senator Blanche Lincoln joins a Republican filibuster of the Democratic health care reform plan, for whom would you vote for in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate if the choices were between Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter and U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln?
Given that 84 percent of likely Arkansas Democratic primary voters support the public option, one can see how this apostasy would negatively affect her primary chances. 42% for an incumbent in a primary that would be dominated by activist-type Democrats is brutal for Lincoln. 37%? If Halter runs, and Lincoln decides to follow through on her promises to fight against the Senate Democratic health care plan, then there's no way she gets past the primary. It's that simple.
But what about the general election matchups?
Lincoln (D) 42 (44)
Baker (R) 41 (37)
Halter (D) 34
Baker (R) 42
Lincoln (D) 44 (45)
Coleman (R) 39 (37)
Halter (D) 35
Coleman (R) 40
Lincoln (D) 45 (46)
Cox (R) 31 (29)
Halter (D) 36
Cox (R) 32
Lincoln (D) 46 (47)
Hendren (R) 30 (28)
Halter (D) 36
Hendren (R) 31
On first blush, this appears to give Lincoln the better general election numbers, but the internals argue otherwise. Note how the Republican numbers are nearly identical versus both candidates. The only thing that changes is the intensity of support for the Democratic candidate, and that's because there are more undecideds when the lesser-known Halter is polled.
In all these matchups, the biggest bloc of undecideds are Democrats. If they turn out (a challenge in and of itself), they will come home to Halter. I'd further argue that Democrats will be more likely to turn out for Halter than they will for Lincoln, who is working overtime to screw over Obama and her Senate Democratic colleagues.
The other big undecided bloc are independents. As noted above, Halter already has better favorability numbers among independent voters. And given the anti-incumbency mood around the country this cycle, particularly pronounced among independent voters, which Democrat do you think they'd be more likely to support? The entrenched incumbent DC-politician, Lincoln, or Halter, who is sort of a rebel and comes from outside the Arkansas establishment?
This poll shows that Lincoln's obstructionism, rather than bolster her standing in Arkansas, is actually hurting her more. She has slid against the opposition, losing ground with all groups -- Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Her clumsy bungling of the health care issue stands in stark contrast with her colleague, Sen. Mark Pryor, who remains in positive favorability territory, 48-38.
If Halter runs, we'll have a barn burner of a primary, and a real opportunity for progressives to strike back against one of the biggest obstructionists in the Senate, not just on health care, but on practically every issue we care about. And given Lincoln's poor general election numbers (well below the 50 percent danger marker for incumbents), we'd likely have a better chance of holding the seat with Halter, who would be more likely to consolidate Democratic support and get them to the polls, while remaining competitive among incumbent-adverse independents.
The ball is in Halter's court.
(I'll take a closer look at Halter if it looks like he might join in. Here's a diary from a local on Halter, to whet your appetite.)