The Toughest VoteNovember 17, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
As I mentioned this morning, of the three Senate Democrats threatening to vote against the public option, only one of them — Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D-AR] — is up for re-election in 2010. The other two have two more years before they have to to face voters. By then, there will be other big issues and contentious votes to focus on. It will be hard for public option supporters to get Lincoln on their side, even for helping them break Republican filibusters.
Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post today profiles Lincoln and what she’s facing back in Arkansas:
Hundreds of thousands of Lincoln’s constituents are low-income and lack insurance, the very kind of voters expected to benefit under the Senate bill. Lincoln, a second-term senator, helped write some of the legislation’s key provisions as a member of the Finance Committee, and her sometimes uncomfortable role near the center of the debate could cost her in culturally conservative Arkansas. Despite the potential benefits for many in her state, polls show her support weakening, and constituents are expressing doubts about the proposed overhaul.
The low-profile centrist is being pressed by both sides. Democratic activists are incensed that she has turned against the public option, an idea she once supported. Republicans are casting her cautious approach to the health-care debate in starkly political terms, saying that she is unwilling to put local interests above those of a president who lost the state by a resounding 20 percentage points.
“I want to be a check and balance on Barack Obama’s extreme agenda,” state Sen. Gilbert Baker, a front-runner for the GOP nomination, told reporters last week.
An Arkansas Poll published Nov. 5 found that Lincoln’s job-approval rating had dropped to 43 percent, from 54 percent a year ago. At least seven Republicans are vying to challenge her bid for a third term; Baker raised $500,000 in his first month as a candidate. And if she does not embrace the party line on the health issue, Lincoln could also face a Democratic primary challenger, along with a Green Party opponent in the general election.
Lincoln’s also getting a lot of push-back from the left over her position on health care reform. Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling writes today that 30% of Democrats in the R+4 AR-02 district think she’s too conservative. “I’m really not sure what Lincoln should do but I certainly don’t envy her position,” Jensen writes. “She’s stuck between a rock and a hard place.”