AR-02: Blue Arkansas Rejects Your Reality And Substitutes Their Own

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    It must be nice to live in Blue Arkansas. From what I can see through the blinding glare of reality, it’s a fanciful world full of rainbows and ponies and rainbow-colored ponies, where reality takes a backseat to dreams and hopes and the wishes of baby angels.

    First, there was this post, wherein ARDem seems to argue that, because the other members of the Arkansas Election Line and I did not account for Joyce Elliott being black when we called the race “Safe Griffin,” our analysis was somehow lacking.

    Did you hear? Joyce Elliott can’t win. The reason? Well, let’s see…there was that one poll from Talk Business/Hendrix that was skewed heavily towards older voters…She’s behind in all the internal polls Republicans release, and Tim Wooldridge showed us that those internals are super reliable…Oh and Tim Griffin had way more money than she did back in June after her competitive primary with Robbie Wills, no word on funds raised and spent since then.

    And yet, at the same time, there’s a notable factor that has been swept under the rug in analyses of the AR-02 campaign, and it’s one that’s pretty obvious-the role of race.

    We new [sic] this was going to be an uphill climb from the beginning. A big reason why Obama didn’t compete here in Arkansas was the perception that Arkansas wouldn’t vote for him because he is black. I still think he should have campaigned here and everywhere, but you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard something racist about Obama, and if you think it’s not wide spread you’re naive. When the Elliott campaign began, those of us that decided to support her had to address arguments that she couldn’t win because of her race in the initial primary and we had to deal directly with the electability argument in the runoff.

    Remember, the people making the argument that she couldn’t win back then would always say it was because she was from Pulaski County…often despite being from Pulaski County themselves. Yeah, that one was pretty transparent. That said, the issue of race hasn’t gone away.

    Granted, the village narrative doesn’t include it. Not one of the Arkansas Election Line folks included it in their analysis of the race. Not Talk Business. Not The Tolbert Report. Not the Blue Hog Report. Seems like a pretty glaring thing to leave out in your discussion of a race where the Democrats have nominated, for the first time, an African American candidate for federal office in a state with an ugly racist/segregationist past. And it’s not that I’m singling the election line out. As BHR noted, the National Journal declared the race over and wouldn’t say why.

    [**]How big is race going to play in the final turnout? Don’t know and we won’t until the election results come in. Personally, I’m expecting that Elliott’s going to perform better than the expectations. That’s not a prediction or a statement of confidence in victory, just a hunch that the final margin will be closer than what the media narrative suggests. And if I’m wrong…well, I’m just wrong, so be it.

    Here’s the thing: ARDem’s premise that leaving out a detailed discussion of race is “pretty glaring” in this situation is only valid if he is implying that Elliott’s role as Arkansas’s first black candidate for federal office not only trumps the “ugly racist/segregationist past” and trumps everything else going against Elliott (poorly run campaign, missed opportunities with her abysmal first commercial, etc.), but even has the potential to skew the expected turnout in November such that it must be included in any meaningful analysis.

    The reason that ARDem must be implying this argument if his post is to be taken seriously is because the other two scenarios — Elliott’s race as a negative and Elliott’s race as having no effect — would not change the current perception or the AEL rating that Elliott is very likely to lose.  And if discussion of her race would not change anything, then omission of that discussion cannot be “pretty glaring.”

    However, without some kind of persuasive argument or citation to something that supports ARDem’s position, there is literally nothing in the record to suggest that being black would be a massive help in overcoming the other deficiencies.  After all, as he noted, the 2008 anti-Obama vote, even in a year when other Democrats in Arkansas did well, does not bode well for Elliott.  There is little else to base such a contention upon.

    Yet he apparently wants us to overlook the other negatives of Elliott’s campaign, ignore that he previously said that analyses that included the fact that Elliott was black as a reason why she would lose were inherently flawed and (impliedly) racist, ignore that there is nothing at all to suggest that her race will somehow help her in this contest, and focus on her race in an explanation about why the AR-02 outcome “Leans Griffin.”  How does this make the slightest bit of sense? (Hint: It doesn’t.)

    Oh, but it gets better.  You see, immediately after the primary, when Griffin was not so clearly ahead and Elliott still seemed to have a chance, Roby Brock did discuss race, writing: “Will race be a factor? I’d like to think it won’t be. But because the answer to that question is unknown, one has to consider that it will be and it could cut either positively or negatively for Elliott. Will race help her with African-American voters aiming to elect the first black female to federal office from Arkansas? Will it prejudice white conservative voters prone to support Democrats in general elections? Or will the two scenarios neutralize each other?”

    Which is to say that people have written about race when race was still relevant to the outcome.  However, despite ARDem’s protestations to the contrary, Elliott’s race is no longer all that germane to the discussion because no one in his right mind would suggest that Elliott-qua-trailblazer has enough cache to overcome the fact that nearly EVERYTHING else points in Griffin’s favor.  (For example, ARDem points to the lack of cash rather dismissively.  Yet Elliott’s July 15 FEC report showed her with $106,000 cash-on-hand, while Griffin reported roughly $316,000 cash-on-hand. That’s almost three times Elliott’s cash as of less than two months ago. Additionally, Griffin outraised Elliott in 1Q ($183,765 to $123,000) and 2Q ($379,000 to $366,000). Taken together, there is no reason for one to conclude that Elliott somehow has more money than Griffin, and to suggest otherwise simply because there’s been “no word on funds raised and spent since then” is a logical fallacy.)

    Finally, before we move on, I note that ARDem also quickly dismissed the Talk Business poll as “skewed.”  The TB poll in question did have a skewed percentage of older voters as compared to under-40 voters. This much is accurate. However, as I already explained to ARDem,I emailed Jay Barth to ask about it, and Barth explained that the skewed percentage likely had a much, much smaller impact on the results than one would expect because Griffin was leading among the underrepresented voters as well (over 50% with voters under 40). Meaning that including the 18-39 demographic at the correct percentage would not have netted much of a gain for Elliott in the results (Barth estimated that it might have been a couple points difference … in a poll where Elliott trailed by 17 (52-35).) On top of this, Barth mentioned something that we all know, and that Barth knows particularly well from his recent campaign: it’s really hard to get that demographic to vote in non-Presidential elections. Meaning that bumping their percentage in this poll up to that percentage of registered voters might actually be a less accurate picture than having them underrepresented.

    Moving on…

    Following that gem of a post, ARDem struck again today, with a pictorial essay on how Elliott’s campaign is not “invisible.”

    Here she is at the Faulkner County Democratic Women’s Committee meeting.

    Campaigning at a fish fry in White County, where respected state senator John Paul Capps is her campaign chair.

    At the National Champion Chuckwagon Races in Clinton.

    Oh wait, there’s more.  Let’s see, there was her recent appearance on Fox 16 where she aquited herself well.  Then there was her surprise appearance at a Keith Sweat concert where her charisma was on full display and she wowed the audience.  And despite the media narrative, she and her campaign team and countless volunteers are working their butts off to win this thing.  Meanwhile Tim Griffin sends out an email every other day saying this district is now safe Republican.  Let him think that.  In the meantime, we’ll outwork him.  Joyce Elliott may not be on every reporter’s twitter feed, but she’s getting around the district.

    I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it: with very few exceptions, every moment spent outside of Pulaski County so that you can shake a few hands in, say, White County is a wasted amount of time.  As someone who is hinting that Elliott being black could actually tip the race in her favor, ARDem should recognize this; to the extent that the black vote could swing this thing, that vote is found in Pulaksi County.  It may be great for photo ops that she’s hitting the hinterlands of AR-02, but not if it’s done to the exclusion of areas that are more likely to vote for her. If she’s falling into the Blanche Lincoln, “they’ll vote for me because they vote Democrat” way of thinking, Elliott is making a huge mistake. From a purely practical standpoint, it has to be easier to bridge the enthusiasm gap within more liberal areas of Little Rock than to persuade the less-liberal voters in the outlying areas of the county to vote for you, no?

    Look, this is admittedly nothing more than my own anecdotal experience, but I have not seen an Elliott volunteer, received a call from her campaign, or even received a fundraising letter from her, despite living in an area of Little Rock that leans left and despite having received calls and fundraising letters prior to May 18. I have, however, had my doorbell rung by a Griffin volunteer. While I sent him away with a question about voter caging (and made myself laugh in the process), the overall result that I’ve seen is three Griffin signs on my street alone and zero Elliott signs. This does not strike me (or others) as smart campaigning.

    As for the Fox 16 appearance, they say before every one of those candidate interviews that they extended interviews to every single candidate.  So kudos to Elliott for not turning down a chance that other candidates have been accepting for weeks.  Regarding the Keith Sweat concert, I actually don’t have a problem with that — at the very least, she’s in Pulaski County and is trying to increase enthusiasm among the black voters that ARDem seems to think can carry the day — but let’s not act like this

    is likely to extend much beyond the walls of that venue. (And, to my knowledge, the Elliott campaign did not have anyone at the show actually signing up voters, so chalk up another missed opportunity.)

    At the end of the day, I realize that ARDem is Joyce Elliott’s biggest fan. Heck, he even claims that “we” (a group including him) nominated Elliott, despite his living in AR-01 and not being able to vote for her. That’s fine. What’s not fine is for someone to pretend like Elliott is not trailing severely or that her campaign does not need to make some serious changes. To do so argues a position that is unsupportable by anything that one could measure, and it paints a picture that is simply as realistic as something Salvadore Dali would create. Can Elliott still win? Sure. Can she win by continuing to do what she’s been doing? Absolutely not. And no amount of pointing to her race as an unknown or showing cutesy photos of her shaking hands in White County is going to change that.