A Challenge from the Left? ‘Halter Doesn’t Play It That Way’

I’ve been pushing the point over the last couple days that the national media, in covering the Arkansas Senate primary, should be reminding readers that the race may look differently inside the state than outside it.

The argument here has been based largely on how the vote broke down. But Monica Potts, writing for The American Prospect on Monday, made a related point by looking at the challenger’s campaign strategy:

While outside groups and the national media describe, in shorthand, his challenge to Lincoln as a challenge from the left, Halter doesn’t play it that way in the state. Despite support from national unions, Halter doesn’t support card-check and evaded a question during the debate about whether he’d vote for it by saying it was a non-issue and that he favored streamlined secret-ballot elections. During a brief interview with the Prospect, he responded to a question about whether being perceived as from the left would hurt him in the general by saying it’s not about right or left: “It’s about who’s on the side of working class families.” He slammed Lincoln for contributing to the national deficit, adding that he’s more fiscally responsible than she is.

Again, the “challenge from the left” line isn’t exactly wrong; Halter had the resources he needed to run a credible campaign because of support from national liberal groups and labor unions who wanted to put pressure on Lincoln. But it’s woefully incomplete, because it doesn’t reflect what the data are telling us about who voted for whom—or, for that matter, how the candidates presented themselves.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.