Just How Moderate Is Arkansas's Blanche Lincoln, Anyway?

Reporter James McKinley Jr. was in Magnolia, Ark., covering the tightly contested Arkansas Democratic primary: "In the Middle in Arkansas, And Hit From Both Sides."

As the headline shows, McKinley's Monday story posed imperiled Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln as a "moderate." It's a label the paper has bestowed on her several times in its campaign coverage. But just how "moderate" is she?

According to the Times, Lincoln is a moderate, and so was the health-care pushing, pro-abortion "master of the midstream" President Bill Clinton.

Time was, being a moderate Democrat in Arkansas was a safe bet. After all, this is the state that produced Bill Clinton, master of the midstream.

But Senator Blanche Lincoln is discovering that, with the overheated political passions battering incumbents this year, being in the middle only gets you hit from both sides.

Republicans and conservative Democrats have excoriated Mrs. Lincoln for supporting President Obama's health care overhaul, which is often portrayed around here as a socialist plot. Meanwhile, liberal Democrats have hammered her for opposing a government-run insurance option, cap-and-trade climate legislation and a law that would have made it easier for workers to unionize.


Mrs. Lincoln argues that her middle-of-the-road stances are proof that she is not afraid to stand up to special interests. On the trail, she notes that she has introduced a bill to limit banks' ability to profit from derivatives, an idea Wall Street hates.

In a peculiar passage, McKinley made a steak fry sound like a primal ritual and found conservative anger vented amidst "a charcoal haze to worship charred red meat."

It may be a measure of the electorate's angry mood that the Democratic Senate candidate who got the biggest cheer from the steak lovers assembled amid a charcoal haze to worship charred red meat was D. C. Morrison, a former cotton farmer who wants to repeal the new health care law, seal the southern border and abolish income taxes in favor of a consumption tax. "I think there's just a general distrust of Washington," Mr. Morrison explained with a touch of down-home understatement.

A caption to an accompanying info-graphic reads:

Mrs. Lincoln, a centrist who is seeking a third term, has become a target of the left for opposing the final health care bill, climate change legislation and easier organizing rules for labor unions. Liberal groups and unions have spent millions of dollars to support Mr. Halter.

The paper's ideological spectrum is rather skewed: With a lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union of 19 out of a possible 100, Lincoln is safely ensconsed at the liberal end.

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