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AR-Sen: Lincoln Bamboozlement on Health Care

Blanche Lincoln is celebrating the Passover holiday with some chutzpah:

Lincoln’s obstructionism on healthcare and a host of other fronts persuaded Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter–a rising star in the state–to challenge her in the Democratic primary on May 18. Halter helped organize a free healthcare clinic for a thousand Arkansans in November 2009 and supported a public insurance option, along with passage of a final bill through reconciliation. He’s been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, SEIU and MoveOn, and recent polls show him gaining on Lincoln.

Now, in an attempt to court the Obama voters she’s repelled throughout the past year, Lincoln is running ads on African-American radio in Arkansas claiming she “stood with our president to pass healthcare reform.” The ad continues: “Even though the Tea Party and insurance companies attacked Blanche Lincoln, she never abandoned our president, nor you.”

I like the line “Blanche Lincoln stood with the President on health care, and that’s what I like about Blanche Lincoln.”

Regardless of what you think about the health care law, there’s no way this ad bears any resemblance to the truth. Lincoln was a pain in the ass from the beginning on health care and she voted against the reconciliation bill that finished it off. She proudly announced her role in killing the public option just this week.

Halter’s response ad is pretty good:

“Who is Blanche Lincoln trying to fool on healthcare?” says the narrator. “Here’s the deal: she didn’t stand up to the special interests, she worked for them. She sided with those Republicans who tried to kill President Obama’s reforms unless insurance company profits were protected. Insurance companies and HMOs rewarded Lincoln with more the $800,000 in campaign cash…Senator Lincoln, my people aren’t fooled. Bill Halter is the one who’ll stand up for us.”

There’s a line in there about her voting “against President Obama’s plan to lower prescription drug costs for seniors,” which is true, but Lincoln actually voted for drug reimportation, which violated Obama’s PhRMA deal. Other than that, though, Halter’s generally correct about who Lincoln valued in the health care debate.

Regardless of whatever else you think about this race, on purely pragmatic terms Lincoln has to be defeated. She has no chance of winning in November, with her recent ad blitz not having moved the needle an iota. And Halter, who is less well-known, does better in every head-to-head against a Republican than Lincoln; even if this Rasmussen poll has a house effect working against Democrats, an apples-to-apples comparison shows that only Halter has a chance of winning the race.

Lincoln manages to be neither the ideological choice OR the pragmatic choice. It just goes to show you how much she has screwed up her tenure in the Senate.

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David Dayen

David Dayen