Poll Finds Halter Holding Slim Lead in Ark.

Arkansas Democrat Bill Halter holds a narrow lead in his primary fight with Sen. Blanche Lincoln heading into their runoff next month, according to a new poll released by an organization backing the insurgent Halter.

Halter, the Arkansas lieutenant governor, leads Lincoln 48 percent to 46 percent, according to a poll taken by the firm Research 2000 and commissioned by Democracy for America (DFA).

The poll was taken Tuesday night, the evening of the primary election in which Halter came close enough to upsetting the incumbent Lincoln to force a June 8 runoff election.

“We’ve got momentum on our side and an incredible candidate,” says DFA Political Director Charles Chamberlain in an email announcing the poll results. “But Blanche Lincoln and her corporate friends will spend millions over the next 3 weeks smearing Bill to try and save her seat.”

If Halter succeeds in defeating the two-term Lincoln, she will be the second Democratic senator to fall in a primary to an insurgent challenger from the left. Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania this week toppled five-term veteran Sen. Arlen Specter, who switched from the GOP to the Democrats last year. DFA also supported Sestak’s challenge.

Positioning herself as a centrist, Lincoln angered some Democrats for her opposition to key provisions of healthcare reform, as well as for coming out against the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act after earlier supporting the bill that would make it easier for unions to organize. The chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Lincoln holds the support of much of the Democratic establishment, including former president Bill Clinton.

Lincoln has been active lately in promoting her bill that would impose new transparency and regulation of derivatives trading. The $600 trillion derivatives market is one of the most shadowy aspects of Wall Street, and it has been blamed for contributing to the 2008 financial meltdown.

In his email to DFA supporters, Chamberlain touts Halter as a “populist fighter,” and seeks financial contributions on his behalf.

According to the DFA-commissioned poll of Arkansas Democratic voters, 46 percent say Lincoln is more on the side of lobbyists, while 42 percent believe she is on their side. By contrast, 35 percent of Democratic voters believe Halter is on their side; 14 percent believe he is more on the side of lobbyists.

The DFA poll also finds most Arkansas Democrats support the healthcare reform law enacted this year, but that 52 percent say that “it doesn’t go far enough.” Some 77 percent favor the federal government offering a Medicare buy-in public option. Such a provision would allow Americans younger than 65 to buy coverage through Medicare at cost. It was considered briefly, but dropped from the final bill that President Obama signed into law.

Chamberlain’s email also says the poll finds:

  • 53 percent say they don’t think Democrats in Washington are fighting hard enough against special interests.
  • 68 percent of Democrats say they would vote for a candidate who supports regulating Wall Street over decreasing government spending.
  • 68% prefer candidate supported by progressive Democratic groups over Wall St. special interests.
  • The Democrat who wins the June 8 runoff will go on to face Republican Rep. John Boozman in the November general election. Republican John McCain won Arkansas in the 2008 presidential election with 58.72 percent of the general-election vote.

    The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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