Arkansas Times reporter/blogger Max Brantley has a great write-up on Blanche Lincoln and her troubles in Arkansas. As a trusted local source, Brantley has more credibility on Lincoln than any of the national wags trying to claim that she is only “voting her state” by threatening to block health care reform. Tell that to the guy from Arkansas. Brantley says that Lincoln’s politics have moderated over time, and that she’s threatening her political career with her role in the health care debate:

The hard-core Republican base voter is motivated almost to the point of violence. There’ll be no presidential race in 2010 to swell turnout. A Democratic campaign operative in the Delta — his work is turning out black voters — told me that people with solid reasons to support Lincoln, including legislative favors, just don’t seem to care about her fate […] The Lincoln campaign seems more obsessed with money than people, apparently thinking that a huge treasury alone will guarantee success. They are wrong. Whoever wins the Republican nomination will have ample money, in either direct or indirect support, to get out a message.

She was combative with reporters Saturday in announcing her deciding vote to allow debate to begin on health legislation. She said she’s doing what she thinks best for Arkansas voters, not serving a special interest. Even if she’s sincere, her position is harder to articulate and still boils down to protecting private insurance companies from competition..

I still can’t believe that, in the fullness of time, more Americans wouldn’t appreciate a successful effort to provide more people with health coverage and more protection from the cruel whims of insurance companies. But time is short for 2010 candidates.

Brantley seems to believe that Democratic fortunes in Arkansas could be tied to Lt. Governor Bill Halter, who he believes could beat Lincoln in a primary, especially if she votes against the interests of her constituents on health care:

Perhaps Lt. Gov. Bill Halter will test my theory. The Father of the Arkansas Lottery and the recent champion of a successful free health clinic for a thousand of the state’s needy, Halter will never be more popular. In the Second District, where barely a quarter of Democrats are happy with Lincoln, the dissatisfaction is not because she’s too liberal.

Halter, should he jump in the race, could win a Democratic primary that will have few other contests of note and an incumbent with a tepid base. Moreover, given his pluses and given the fact that he would have no Senate record to pick apart, he might be able to win the whole thing. You’d think that prospect might count for something in Lincoln’s further health ditherations.

In 2006, Colin McEnroe became the traditional media source with the most perceptive take in Connecticut during the Lamont/Lieberman primary. Max Brantley could be that source in 2010, especially if Halter takes the plunge and challenges Blanche Lincoln.

David Dayen

David Dayen