‘I don’t answer to my party,’ Democratic senator brags in ad
Lincoln touts opposition to public option, day after liberals raise million for primary foe
A conservative Democratic senator may have angered more than just the progressive base with her new ad. She could be drawing ire from her party’s entire establishment after ripping its legislative priorities.
Facing challengers from the left and the right in her re-election bid this year, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) boasts in the spot about her refusal to support the public health insurance option and climate change legislation.
Portraying Congress as a group of children fighting and blithely tossing around money, she says, “This is why I voted against giving more money to Wall Street, against the auto company bailout, against the public option health care plan, and against the cap and trade bill that would have raised energy costs on Arkansans.”
Lincoln was one of a handful of Senate Democrats whose refusal to back the public option — which progressives strongly champion and polls show a majority of Americans support — ended up scuttling the provision soon before the bill’s passage in December.
The House of Representatives passed cap and trade legislation last summer, but the Senate has not yet taken it up, partly due to the opposition of conservative-leaning Democrats like Lincoln.
“Some in my party didn’t like it very much, but I approve this message because I don’t answer to my party,” she said in the ad. “I answer to Arkansas.”
The Senator’s spokeswoman Katie Laning Niebaum told the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein that the “ad will air from March 5-12 in all Arkansas media markets” and called it “a substantial buy.”
The Republican Party’s recent surge in the polls has Democrats worried as pundits speculate that the minority party could make significant gains, possibly even regain the majority in one or both chambers. A senator from conservative-leaning Arkansas, Lincoln is a prime GOP target and among the most vulnerable incumbents defending her seat.
FoxNews.com reported last month that the two-term senator could be facing one of nine potential Republican contenders in the general election. John Boozman currently leads the pack and holds a 9 point lead against Lincoln, according to a Rasmussen survey released this week.
If the ad is any reflection, Lincoln appears more concerned about a general election battle against a Republican than being ousted in the primaries by newly-declared Democratic contender Bill Halter, a progressive.
Currently the lieutenant governor of Arkansas, Halter jumped in the race on Monday with a big splash as a slew of liberal advocacy groups immediately rallied around him. Although Lincoln holds a comfortable lead of 42-26 points over him according to a December DailyKos/Research 2000 poll, Halter’s notable fundraising success suggests he might put a serious fight.
Less than a day after his announcement, a coalition including MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign managed to raise over half a million dollars for Halter’s primary campaign against Lincoln, claimed DailyKos’s Markos Moulitsas, who is helping organize the effort. The number reportedly jumped to over $1 million within two days.
The White House reaffirmed its support for Lincoln in the Democratic primaries on Thursday, despite her opposition to several of its policies. “The president supports Senator Lincoln,” spokesman Robert Gibbs told Sam Stein in response to a question. “He believes that Senator Lincoln is serving her state well and believes she should be returned for an additional term.”
Gibbs added that Obama “understands even as he’s the head of the Democratic Party that not every Democrat is going to agree with him on every issue, and he’s not going to agree with every other Democrat on their views on every issue.”
The video is Lincoln’s ad, uploaded to YouTube.