Arkansas (Open Seat)
Outlook: Likely Democratic
November 8, 2006 Update:
As the Crystal Ball predicted, Democrat Mike Beebe defeated Republican Asa Hutchinson with 55% of the vote.
August 27, 2006 Update:
Our Arkansas contacts report that Democrat Mike Beebe is gaining steam and Republican Asa Hutchinson is having difficulty with this campaign. After ten years with a Republican governor, Arkansas appears increasingly likely to return to the Democrats, thus solidifying Democratic control of the Razorback State. Should Beebe win, Arkansas will have two Democratic Senators, a Democratic governor and a heavily-democratic legislature–as well as a U.S. House delegation with three Democrats to just one Republican. Except at the presidential level, Arkansas may well be the most Democratic Southern state.
August 2, 2006 Update:
With the tragic death of Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller (R), who might well have been the GOP nominee for governor, Republicans in the state are reminded of what might have been. Instead, Democrat Mike Beebe has opened up a steady lead over Republican Asa Hutchinson, and while it is close and the lead could switch, Beebe is seen as the frontrunner and at least for now the likely winner.
Governor Mike Huckabee may have a hard time explaining on the presidential campaign trail why the GOP has not done better during his tenure as chief executive; Democrats control both U.S. Senate seats, a large majority of the House delegation, the state legislature, and may not get the governorship back, too.
March 27, 2006 Update:
We have talked with quite a number of Arkansas sources over the last month and, in both parties, the belief is that Democrat Mike Beebe has at least a narrow lead over former Congressman Asa Hutchinson. Perhaps it is simply the Democratic drift in 2006, or perhaps it is the fact that Arkansas remains one of the more Democratic Southern states, despite having voted for George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004.
Republican Governor Mike Huckabee is term-limited–and 110 pounds slimmer–after serving since July 1996, when he succeeded resigning, disgraced Governor Jim Guy Tucker (D). The born-again fitness guru-governor was, like Bill Clinton, a native of Hope, Arkansas, and may run for President in 2008 or eventually for one of the two Democrat-held Senate seats.
For 2006, though, he is out of the picture. Huckabee’s party was headed for a tough primary between Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller, son of the late Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller (1967-1971), and former Congressman Asa Hutchinson, an ex-Bush undersecretary of Homeland Security and brother of one-term U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson (1997-2003). Rockefeller, sadly, has had to withdraw from the race because of a battle with cancer, and as a result, Hutchinson is now effectively the GOP nominee. The Rockefeller tragedy has saved the Republicans a potentially divisive battle.
The Democrats seem to have settled on a nominee: state Attorney General Mike Beebe. Of all the Southern states, Arkansas is arguably the most competitive between the parties, and there is no favorite in November at present. However, the Arkansas political specialists with whom we have spoken seem to believe that Beebe has a small edge over Hutchinson, at least at this early stage.
Mike Beebe – Democrat – current Arkansas Attorney General and former state senator
Asa Hutchinson – Republican – former Undersecretary of Homeland Security and ex-U.S. Congressman
Jim Lendall – Independent – Green Party nominee, former Arkansas house member
Rod Bryan – Independent – business owner from Little Rock