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Sen. Blanche Lincoln: Endangered in the political kingdom

A conservation group is now going after the Arkansas Democrat.

January 31, 2010|By Andrew Malcolm and Johanna Neuman
  • Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) is getting 38% or 39% against any of her Republican opponents, a poll shows.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) is getting 38% or 39% against any of her Republican… (Alex Wong / Getty Images )

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is one of the most endangered Democrats on the political landscape this year.

The two-term Arkansas moderate is getting only 38% or 39% against any of her little-known Republican opponents, according to a recent Rasmussen poll. Politico is putting her "at the top of the list of vulnerable Democrats."

And providing President Obama with his 60th vote for healthcare reform in the Senate hasn't helped in a state where public opinion is running strongly against it.

To stretch a metaphor, she's more endangered than that infamous snail darter that delayed Tennessee's Tellico Dam.

Now, the League of Conservation Voters is going after Lincoln for her opposition to a climate-change bill. Putting her on its “Dirty Dozen” list of prime targets, the league -- which spent $1.5 million battling opponents in the last election cycle -- is pledging to put up megabucks to defeat her.

"Most regrettable is the fact that Sen. Lincoln is walking away from her previous support for climate legislation -- and given the scope, urgency and magnitude of this issue, she has more than earned a spot on LCV's Dirty Dozen," said Gene Karpinski, the group's president.

Asked whether the organization wasn't in danger of hurting Obama's agenda by robbing the Senate of another Democratic vote, Karpinski told The Ticket that the league is not a "Democratic organization, we are a nonpartisan issues-based organization, and our issue is the environment."

He added:

"The fact of the matter is that we support the president's agenda that he reiterated in the State of the Union -- passing bipartisan comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation -- and unfortunately Sen. Lincoln does not."

Gibbs in Fox News territory

Remember that White House war on Fox News?

Well, forget it.

Looks like reaching Fox News' winning audiences -- fully a third of whom are . . . shhhh, Democrats who denounce Fox News at work and parties and then go home to secretly watch the channel -- ended up making more sense to White House strategists than trying to freeze out that alleged arm of the Republican Party.

As The Ticket previously reported, on Jan. 19 during the Massachusetts Senate race coverage, Fox News drew in 6.8 million viewers, about four times the audience sleeping over at CNN.

And now the liberal Air America radio network has silenced itself due to a lack of listeners, creating a lack of advertisers, creating a dearth of dough.

So President Obama's chief spokesman, Robert Gibbs, went on "Fox News Sunday" last week all by himself. To face the dark empire's death star Chris "No, Luke, I Am Your Father" Wallace.

Of course, Gibbs didn't make any grand pronouncements. The press secretary's job is to dodge while appearing to elaborate.

But the Obama crowd was on defense all week and had to get some of its folks out to play down the predictable OMG D.C. chatter about the upset election win by Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Nothing special going on there -- same anger as before, move along.

Now, why would a president, who just a few years ago was a nobody state senator in Illinois before getting elected to the U.S. Senate, be worried about a nobody state senator in Massachusetts getting elected to the U.S. Senate just a few years before the 2012 presidential election? Gee, beats us.

Anyway, Gibbs told Wallace several things, not necessarily in this order.

So what about the election of a Republican senator for the first time since 1972 in Massachusetts?

Gibbs: "There's no doubt there's anger and frustration in this country -- we saw it manifest itself in Massachusetts. . . . What people want in this country is they want us to focus on getting this economy moving again. They want us to work together."

So what about the president's sinking poll numbers and Democratic defeats in Virginia and the former party strongholds of Massachusetts and New Jersey? Will that change White House strategy on healthcare, etc.?

Gibbs: "Well, right now, we're working with leaders on Capitol Hill to try to figure out the best path forward. We don't know what that is quite yet."

So with things going so swimmingly well politically for Obama in recent months, how should we read the president bringing 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe back into his political operation?

Gibbs: "He will help supplement an already good political staff led by Patrick Gaspard in the White House in helping us watch the 2010 elections, the gubernatorial, the Senate and the House elections, that will obviously be important to the direction of the country."

andrew.malcolm@latimes.com

Neuman writes for The Times.

Top of the Ticket, The Times' blog on national politics ( www.latimes.com/ticket "> www.latimes.com/ticket ), is a blend of commentary, analysis and news. These are excerpts from the last week.

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