Ellison’s Must Read of the Day

Ellison must read

My must read of the day is "Bill Clinton plays savior for Arkansas Democrats," by Brianna Keilar, on CNN.com:

Clinton is drawing on his more than four decades of political experience as he returns home Monday to bolster Democrats who are fighting for survival. […]

Clinton will attend rallies and fundraisers Monday in Conway, at the University of Central Arkansas just outside of Little Rock and at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. On Tuesday, Clinton will headline events in Conway and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he and Hillary Clinton both taught law.

When Clinton ran for president, he carried a number of southern states that eluded Obama, even as he won an historic 53 percent of the popular vote in 2008. But even Clinton, the native son, would struggle to put Arkansas in his column now.

Mitt Romney bested Obama by almost 24 percentage points in Arkansas in 2012. John McCain beat Obama by nearly 20 percentage points in 2008 and George W. Bush won out over John Kerry by just under 10 points in 2004.

It’s difficult to imagine that Bill Clinton can do much to change the tide in his home state.

The Democratic Party has been on the decline for the past few years in Arkansas, and the state is one of the most conservative in the nation.

Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe has the highest approval rating of any governor—but, in Arkansas, 62 percent of respondents disapprove of the job President Obama’s doing. Fifty-one percent disapprove of the Sen. Mark Pryor’s (D.) job performance.

The state isn’t particularly keen on Democrats, and they haven’t been for years. Clinton may be the Democrats’ best shot at changing that, but it’s a long shot—a point Pryor seemed to recognize back in December 2013.

These days, it seems that the only Democrat Arkansans really like is Gov. Beebe, and he’s not particularly representative of the Democratic Party.

Beebe proposed cuts to the state’s budget throughout his tenure, and as the National Governor’s Association notes, under his leadership "Arkansas was one of only four states to enter the past two fiscal years without a projected budget shortfall."

He expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but added a privatized option. Many red states and Republicans liked it—though an HHS memo would later change that.

Still, it was originally a plan that sought to partially privatize the program and provide vouchers to Medicaid recipients. That’s a reform option opposed by many on the left and supported, in theory, by many on the right.

Those examples are by no means an exhaustive review of Beebe’s positions, but even with a parochial glance, it’s rather obvious that Beebe is not the most liberal Democrat. He tends to be a conservative-leaning Democrat.

Pryor is also not the most liberal Democrat you’ve ever seen, but he is not conservative.

He votes with Senate Democrats 88 percent of the time. Pryor started out as someone "budget hawks" thought would be fiscally conservative, but then he voted in opposition to issues supported by them—such as eliminating the death tax—and in favor of stimulus packages and the Affordable Care Act (a law fiscal conservatives say raises taxes by at least $500 billion).

Votes like that make it easy for Republicans to argue that Pryor hasn’t been the fiscal conservative voters hoped for when he was voted into office.

Pryor’s Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, doesn’t have stellar approval ratings at 40 percent, but the general climate in Arkansas is certainly more favorable to him. Pryor is facing a difficult climate, and his voting record makes it difficult to separate himself from the policies of national Democrats—Democrats that Arkansans seem to despise. That’s not something that will be easy to counter, even for slick Willie.