Who Can Challenge Lincoln?

July 9, 2003 - posted at: 5:42 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Campaign Finance reports indicate Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln has raised just under $2 million for her 2004 re-election campaign on the way to a goal of $3 million.

She is the self-described "Daughter of the Delta." In 1998, Lincoln was the youngest woman ever to be elected to the Senate. Lincoln is now Arkansas' senior senator and she's up for re-election in 2004. No Republican has announced  they will challenge her, but one political expert says that a challenger may not matter.

"It's her race to lose simply because of her party affiliation," said Dr. Richard Wang, political science professor at Arkansas State University.

GOP sources on Capitol Hill tell K8 news that in recent months Lincoln's campaign has been working on insulating her from possible Republican contenders by taking a conservative stance on issues. For example, Lincoln was one of only 12 Senate Democrats to vote for the 2001 tax cut, and she also championed a child tax credit with a Republican colleague.

Meanwhile, Governor Mike Huckabee's name has been tossed around as a possible challenger. Speaking to reporters Tuesday at Bryant Middle School, Huckabee said that, "he is busy working on his education plan and is not thinking about his political plans at this time."

Political experts believe Huckabee's recent education initiatives could prove costly, should he decide to run.

"His statewide appeal is clearly not what it was a year ago," said Wang. "If he continues in this vein, his standing in the polls, I suspect, will continue to fall."

Another name mentioned to run against Lincoln is Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson.  Hutchinson is a former congressman from Arkansas, whose brother Tim was the first Republican ever to win a Senate seat from the state. Hutchinson has repeatedly stated he will not run for the seat.

Jonesboro attorney, Dustin McDaniel, who has announced the formation of an exploratory committee to seek the Democratic nomination for a state House seat, said Huckabee will face significant challenges should he decide to run against Lincoln.

"Governor Huckabee is going to have a hard time being a tax raising Republican against a tax-cutting Democrat," said McDaniel.