Obama Dislike Fuels GOP Takeover in Arkansas

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 7:29 am  

President Barack Obama's unpopularity helped Republicans in Arkansas achieve a takeover of the state's House and Senate and sweep Arkansas' congressional seats. (Photo by The White House)

The GOP takeover came in spite of polls showing that Arkansas voters overwhelmingly backed Beebe's performance and believed the state was headed in the right direction. Beebe, who was re-elected in 2010, was not on Tuesday's ballot but had been the chief salesman for his party's bid to a keep a legislative majority.

Beebe, a veteran legislator who said he had campaigned more this year for other candidates than ever before in his political career, had held off from predicting whether Democrats would maintain control. Instead, he warned that the Legislature would likely remain closely divided along party lines.

"They're going to have to figure out how to work together," Beebe told reporters in the days leading up the election.

That'll be especially true on the big issues. Expanding Medicaid and other budget matters require a three-fourths vote in both chambers, a so-called supermajority that neither party can claim after this election.

A Republican takeover of the Senate - where Beebe served for 20 years - threatened to alter the governor's agenda as he heads into his final regular legislative session next year. That agenda includes his support for expanding Medicaid's eligibility under the federal health care overhaul, a law that Republicans have vowed to stop at the state level. Beebe and Republicans are also poised to clash over tax policy, with the governor hoping to continue cutting the state's grocery tax and GOP leaders calling for cuts to the state income tax instead.

The election gave Republicans leverage to push for these and other policies that they felt had been pushed aside by Beebe and other top Democrats.

"(Voters) want a check and balance on the Democrat Party," State GOP Chairman Doyle Webb said.

Democrats were left to figure out how to halt a surge that began two years ago and now threatens to overwhelm them in 2014. It's a task that observers say was made harder by the re-election of an incumbent president who's made an easy foil for the GOP.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.) 



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