Monday, March 22, 2010


The Republican Party of Arkansas landed a credible and formidable opponent for Governor this year in businessman Jim Keet, but popular incumbent Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe is the strongest political brand in state politics.
  • The Arkansas Election Line rates the Governor’s race “Safe Democrat” today.
Beebe has a massive fundraising advantage in the race over late-comer Keet. Beebe’s job approval and popularity have consistently remained above 70% throughout a tumultuous year of politics that has badly damaged the reputation of incumbent federal lawmakers.

Beebe’s common sense and conservative governing style, especially on budget issues, have thrust his tenure into the national spotlight as a model state chief executive.

He is not branded with the Obama, Pelosi or Reed monikers as easily as Democratic Senate and Congressional candidates. There is a clear distinction between an Obama Democrat in Arkansas and a Beebe Democrat as we’ve written before.

Still, Keet will have ammunition to use against the popular Governor. A doggedly high unemployment rate, net job losses, budget challenges at the state level, and voter angst toward all incumbents will give Keet opportunities to make the race more competitive.

He will struggle to match Beebe’s fundraising war chest, which will limit his viability, but gubernatorial candidates do get much more earned (free) media exposure than most other races.

If you polled this contest today, Beebe wins in a landslide by a 70-30% margin. However, there are many months to go before November and while Keet will meticulously chip away at this lead, there will have to be a huge reversal of fortune for Keet to upset Beebe this fall.

The other factor Keet brings to this race is the ability to limit Beebe’s influence in other races in Arkansas. While Beebe will certainly campaign for other Democrats, he won’t campaign nearly as aggressively with Keet’s challenge and that could be a difference-maker for other Republican candidates.

Jason Tolbert at The Tolbert Report – Governor’s race
Blake Rutherford at Blake’s Think Tank – Governor’s race