“A party divided” is the Democrats’ attack line, as they have argued for months that the Tea Party is provoking a civil war within the Republican Party. But on Tuesday in Arkansas, most of the political discord was within their own ranks.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s victory in a runoff against attorney general Bill Halter, by a 52 to 48 margin, was also a major defeat for big labor, which poured $10 million into Arkansas on the challenger’s behalf.
Halter’s defeat set off a round of finger-pointing between the White House and labor unions, which have traditionally been a strong ally for the Obama administration. And the exhausting primary fight left Lincoln wearied and with a diminished war chest heading into a general election where she has so far polled well behind Republican nominee John Boozman, a congressman serving his fourth consecutive term.
Top White House officials have said in recent weeks they meddled with primary challengers in Pennsylvania and Colorado because they had “a legitimate interest in averting a divisive primary fight.” Arkansas was Exhibit A for what Democrats wanted to avoid, though the administration’s bungled handling of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff has created more problems than it has solved.
Boozman and national Republicans immediately pounced on Lincoln’s votes in favor of President Obama’s biggest ticket items – the $1 trillion health care law and the $787 billion stimulus bill.
“We are going to run an aggressive campaign making the distinctions clear on Obamacare, card check, cap-and-trade, job killing stimulus legislation and the tax-and-spend initiatives that continue to plunge our nation further into enormous debt,” Boozman said in a statement.
Nonetheless, results in other states showed that the GOP still faces challenges of its own. The party’s nominee to take on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada – former state lawmaker Sharron Angle – is another insurgent candidate with sometimes doctrinaire Tea Party movement positions, a la Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul.
After defeating a crowded field of Republican candidates in Nevada’s primary Tuesday by winning 40 percent of the vote, Angle became the Democrats’ newest target.
“Like other Tea Party candidates already picked to run for federal office – such as Rand Paul in Kentucky – Angle believes in radical social and economic ideas that would turn back the clock and take America backwards,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine.