Something amusing has happened on the way to the June 8 runoff election in Arkansas. Blanche Lincoln, who started her campaign with an ad touting her votes against Democratic agenda items, from the public option to cap and trade, has now metamorphosed into a staunch Democratic reformer.

Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln is shifting her campaign message dramatically as she heads into a Democratic primary runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, depicting herself as a firm supporter of President Barack Obama’s agenda as she seeks to avoid defeat at the hands of the Democratic base.

In an ad that hit the airwaves this weekend, Lincoln highlights her votes in favor of the stimulus and the health care reform bill, and includes a video clip of Obama signing health care reform into law.

“Blanche Lincoln voted to pass health care reform because it was right for Arkansas. She strongly supported the president’s economic recovery plan,” says the narrator of the 30-second spot.

If the reconciliation bill didn’t pass the Senate, there would not have been a health care bill. Lincoln voted against that reconciliation bill, way back in the long-forgotten days of this March.

The ad in question ends with Lincoln attacking Halter with a false charge about him outsourcing jobs to India. But there’s a very real failure by Lincoln, a failure to get her bill reigning in Wall Street through Congress, that’s playing out right now in real time. Everyone in America knows that her spin-off proposal for those lucrative swaps trading desks has no chance of passing. Yet she’s still talking about her bill as if she stuck it to the big banks. There’s simply no evidence that it was anything but a kabuki dance. And the day after the June 8 election, that derivatives title will be gone.

Representative Michael McMahon, a New York Democrat who played a role in shaping the House derivatives language passed last year, said he will work to remove a provision in the Senate legislation that would force commercial banks such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to move their swaps- trading operations to subsidiaries.

“My position is that it should come out now,” McMahon, one of the lead derivatives negotiators for the self-described “moderate, pro-growth” New Democrat Coalition, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “The House bill is based on principles on how to reduce risk and make the system more transparent, it’s not based on wiping out the system or destroying the system and that’s what the provision does.”

The night of the primary election, Lincoln’s campaign manager, Steve Patterson, wrote in an email. “Her opponents and the pundits said she couldn’t do it, that it was a stunt, that it would never pass. She proved them flat wrong.” There’s one thing flat wrong in that passage, and we all know what it is.

Blanche Lincoln clearly doesn’t think much of her constituents if she thinks she can play them so easily for suckers.

David Dayen

David Dayen