I’m beginning coverage of the 2010 elections with the US Senate race in Arkansas, as it provides an early glimpse into the legacy of the contentious healthcare debate that dominated nearly a year’s worth of news cycles. Senator Blanche Lincoln, the incumbent, failed to win the Democratic primary outright, necessitating a June 8 runoff against Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. As of May 26, Governor Halter enjoyed a lead of 2.889% over Senator Lincoln. If you look at favorables, Ms Lincioln has a 59% approval rating among likely Democratic primary voters [with 36% disapproving and 5% undecided] and Mr Halter a 63% approval [with 21% disapproving and 16% undecided].
The race is proving an uphill struggle for Senator Lincoln in a state where the national healthcare bill continues to rankle voters who register much higher and stronger opposition than voters nationwide. Her initial support for the bill in the Senate is credited for much of her political trouble. Although Governor Halter chose to challenge her, he is strongly supported by labor unions and national liberal groups, reflecting their views on Ms Lincoln’s changes this fall. Nationally, 56% of voters favor repeal of the healthcare law, while 72% of Arkansas voters feel that way, including 60% who strongly favor repeal. Only 24% oppose repeal, including 18% who strongly oppose it. Just 4% are undecided on repeal. Those are astonishing numbers that bode ill for the incumbent party in Arkansas, and is almost certainly career-ending for Ms Lincoln, whether in June or November.
In the general, Republican Congressman John Boozman (AR-3) presently enjoys sizable leads over both his potential rivals in the state’s US Senate race, 66%-28% over Senator Lincoln and 60%-33% over Governor Halter. There will be no national coattails in Arkansas this year, President Obama showing just a 37% approval rating among likely voters [with 61% disapproval and only 2% undecided]. Of those strongly supportive of healthcare repeal, 80% support Representative Boozman, while Governor Halter gains 74% of the smaller group of those strongly opposed to repeal, and Senator Lincoln get 60% of those strongly opposed.
More than any other state, healthcare seems to be a watershed event in Arkansas, although the administration’s overall agenda is demonstrably unpopular – only 19% of Arkansas voters are even somewhat confident that Congress knows what it is doing with regards to the economy; 76% are also not very or not at all confident that their representatives in Congress are representing voters’ best interests; and voters in the state oppose the confirmation of President Obama’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan. 44%-23%.
Arkansas was probably going to be one of the seats lost to the loyal opposition during this off-year election anyway [Obama lost Arkansas to McCain by 20 points in 2008], and that seems all but certain now.
 A weighted average of an R2000/Daily Kos May 24-26 poll of 400 likely voters and a May 18 R2000/DFA poll of 500 likely voters. Both organizations are considered Democratic pollsters, and both polls are reported by Real Clear Politics.
 pollster.com, reported on May 27 2010 by Emily Swanson.
 See Rasmussen Reports, May 21 2010.
 Swanson, pollster.com.