Wednesday, March 17, 2010


On Day 3 of our Arkansas Election Line roll-out, we analyze the 2nd Congressional District race, which is an open seat due to Rep. Vic Snyder’s announced retirement.

The 2nd District will be a battleground and it could dictate the fate of the U.S. Senate race as general election turnout in central Arkansas is likely to tip the scales from the Republican imbalance in the 3rd and the Democratic imbalance in the 1st and 4th Districts.
  • The Arkansas Election Line rates the U.S. Congress, District 2 race as a “toss up.”
When you take the counties of the 2nd, Pulaski County has dominated the district and typically dictates the outcome of the congressional seat. Snyder won in Pulaski County with comfortable margins and often fortified his Democratic leads in smaller counties like Perry, Conway, Van Buren and Yell.

The suburban counties in the district – Faulkner, Saline and White – give Republicans an advantage. The high-growth areas of CD 2 are these three counties and western Pulaski county, which all trend Republican. Van Buren County, which has been a hotbed of conservative activism, could be a swing county this fall.

Where this district stands as an open Congressional seat is a real question mark. I think 2010 will be a defining year for the district’s political identity.

The general election match-up will also dictate the outcome of this race. For instance, a Tim Griffin (R) vs. Robbie Wills (D) race has a radically different dynamic than if Joyce Elliott (D) or Scott Wallace (R) are the nominees.
  • In the Republican primary, The Arkansas Election Line predicts that Tim Griffin will be the nominee. Today, we rank the GOP nomination as “Leans Griffin,” but that could change.
Thus far, Griffin has displayed fundraising prowess, campaign discipline and an organizational effort necessary to win a high-profile federal race. He has also transitioned from campaign strategist to candidate much more smoothly than expected.

If the next contribution report shows Griffin with a hefty six-figure fundraising lead over his primary opponent, Scott Wallace, our designation will likely shift to “Safe Griffin” or even “Solid Griffin.”

With the activity of state House and Senate primaries in heavy Republican parts of the district, Griffin’s money becomes a landslide advantage. He also has received backing from national party leaders.
  • On the Democratic side, The Arkansas Election Line rates the chase as “Leans Wills.”
Robbie Wills, the current Speaker of the House, has lined up impressive establishment support and has benefited from a ton of earned media exposure as the House leader.

Wills has the broadest base of support in the district, but I don’t see this race avoiding a run-off with 5 Democrats in the field. I expect Wills to lead the ticket. Who will be #2?

State Sen. Joyce Elliott could greatly benefit from a number of competitive legislative races in Pulaski County. She will also capitalize from long-time labor support – groups heavily invested in Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s primary challenge of Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

David Boling is a dark-horse to watch. He’s the former chief of staff to Cong. Snyder, but is not benefiting from Snyder assistance like Cong. Marion Berry is offering his former chief of staff, Chad Causey, in the 1st District.

Still, Boling has impressed many individuals and groups with whom he’s come in contact. Will that translate into enough financial support to conduct an effective paid media strategy and field organization? We’ll see.

Jason Tolbert with The Tolbert Report – U.S. Congress, Dist. 2
Blake Rutherford with Blake’s Think Tank – U.S. Congress, Dist. 2