Our political Quote of the Day comes from the always-highly-quotable MSNBC First Read team of Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg who suggest that two circumstances may have brought the Democrats two votes closer to health care reform enactment:
*** Dems pick up two votes? Are Democrats having their best health-care day in quite some time? Oddly enough, maybe. Today, it appears they’ve picked up two votes for THEIR effort to pass health-care. First, Rep. Nathan Deal (R) announces his resignation today to concentrate on his bid for Georgia governor. And with Deal’s retirement, that means there are 431 House members, so the magic number to pass health care in the House is now 216 votes, down from last week’s 217. Second, in Arkansas, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D) today announced he’s launching a primary challenge against Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D). While Arkansas isn’t Pennsylvania — where Joe Sestak’s primary has pushed Arlen Specter to the left — Halter’s challenge probably ensures that Lincoln ends up voting for reconciliation, assuming that Lincoln wants to remain in the Senate.
On Lincoln they write:
Blanche Lincoln gets primary challenge: With Arkansas’ filing deadline a week from today, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D) announced that he will challenge Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) in a Democratic primary. “I’m going to spend the rest of today phoning friends, family and supporters, and making a courtesy call to Sen. Blanche Lincoln,” Halter said in a press release. “I look forward to joining my wife and father tomorrow morning at the state capitol where we’ll make official my campaign to put Arkansans first.” Halter also has this announcement video. The question is whether Lincoln — whose poll numbers are abysmal — decides not to seek re-election with the filing deadline next week. Before this news, it was pretty clear she was focused on running. Assuming she does stay in, this sets up an odd primary fight between the progressive wing of the party and the White House. By the way, this also could be a test of Bill Clinton’s sway, if he chooses to engage; something tells us he’d be itching for this fight.
And a slew of stories are now breaking about Lincoln — whose challenge again underscores how those in the GOP and Democratic party perceived by their party’s dominant ideological factions as not towing the line or too centrist are essentially being weeded out in a 21st century where many partisans now insist on ideological purity.
“WE RSERVE THE RIGHT OF ADMISSION” signs are now being hung up in the tents of both political parties.
Some of the stories and posts now emerging include these:
Check out billhalter.com, and you’ll see instantly why incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-AR, who was already facing a very rough re-election effort with her abyssmal approval ratings, should be even more worried.
A fresh-faced, charming young lieutenant governor, named Bill Halter, in announcing his bid to take on Lincoln, is actually seen getting out of a pickup truck at one point in the campaign ad (is this the Scott Brown formula??) — and even more astounding, one of the things he touts is healthcare reform. It’s not clear what version, because he rather craftily keeps it general in nature. Halter castigates Washington as “broken” – a place that’s “protecting insurance company profits, instead of protecting patients and lowering healthcare costs.”
Not once does Halter speak the name of his new opponent who grew up on an Arkansas farm and years ago used her own pickup truck to campaign. The two appear to share humble roots and a folksy way, but Halter appears more polished and easygoing — but that’s just a snap judgment from a pre-produced campaign spot. WAY too early to tell, for sure.
Lincoln is definitely vulnerable, though.
The key question: was Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, a popular Democrat, encouraged to challenge Blanche Lincoln for Senate by any entity other than the liberal blogs? That is — did the White House, or the DNC, or senior Democrats, privately encourage Halter to mount a primary challenge in order to defeat Lincoln, who trails Republicans in the polls, or to toughen her up for the general election?
A senior White House official insists the answer is no — this was Halter’s own ambition. But don’t be surprised if senior Democrats in DC aren’t unhappy about the development.
Halter announced his run in a video this morning. Standing in front of a modest-looking house in North Little Rock, Halter says that he’s “making Washington is no longer working for this neighborhood and all across Washington.” He decries “gridlock, bickering and partisan games while unemployment is at a 25-year high.” He points to “bailouts” without “strings attached.”
Halter is running as an outsider, but he has extensive Washington experience, serving as a top economic adviser to Bill Clinton and as deputy head of the Social Security Administration during the Clinton years. Before that, he was a senior economist working for Congress. He is a Rhodes scholar, and has two children.
Halter has hinted about a bid for months, particularly after Lincoln had to bargain to secure her vote in favor of health care reform. Halter helped to organize a free health care clinic in Little Rock, earning him national television coverage.
Conservative Democrat Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), whose obstinacy during the health care reform process was so frustrating to the progressive community, is officially getting a primary challenge.
On Monday morning, Arkansas lieutenant governor, Bill Halter, announced that he would launch a campaign to dislodge Lincoln from her Senate seat. He cited a need to focus on middle class issues, take on Wall Street, and fight back against special interests. Halter, who will call Lincoln personally today and send papers to the state capitol on Tuesday, broke the news of his candidacy through an online video at his site..
As expected, the Halter announcement is making some national waves.
Here, the liberal Daily Kos has begun fund-raising support for Halter.
Kos readers seem happy at the news. Many of them are not Ark. Dems, however.
Politico says the announcement “complicates” matters for Lincoln. Yup.
Talking Points Memo thinks progressive and “netroots” support could be an advantage for Halter in the fall, something Lincoln couldn’t expect. The counter to that is that Republicans, particularly in Arkansas, love to characterize a candidate as an East Coast liberal symp. This could work a little better against Halter than against, say, a Dale Bumpers, given the number of years Halter was away from the state (including working in the belly of the Washington beast, if at the generally popular Social Security Administration.)
Surprisingly, no Republican snark yet. It ought to arrive any minute…
Now you can follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.