Hutchinson vs. Ross, er, Obama (Blake Rutherford On Politics)

by Blake Rutherford  on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 1:55 pm  

Blake Rutherford

It was an enviable position to be in, and also somewhat providential: October marked the beginning of the worst period in the Obama presidency. In November and December, as problems with became more apparent, Obama's approval rating plummeted. Thinking conventionally, it seemed certain that anti-Obama sentiment would inure to Hutchinson’s benefit.

But that wasn't the case.

Last week, Rasmussen released a poll with Ross ahead 44 percent to 41 percent. It also showed that Ross had gained 7 points since October, a noteworthy and important trend.

It didn’t help that Hutchinson underwhelmed in his initial foray into issues of substance for business.

The first, on the issue of taxation, began last October when Hutchinson clumsily described Ross’ philosophy behind a sales and use tax exemption for manufacturing machinery "like President Barack Obama's," despite support for the tax cut from the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, hardly an Obama ally. 

Then, fair or not, Hutchinson's income tax reduction plan, released in November, was clouded almost instantly by the memory of his poorly conceived idea in 2006 to eliminate the grocery tax all at once. In his analysis, Andrew DeMillo of the AP observed, "Republican rival Asa Hutchinson is just as eager to flip the script and avoid the same fate he suffered at Beebe's hands in that race."

And when Hutchinson was given the opportunity to state his view on the economics of private option alternative to Medicaid expansion, he was reduced to relying on the ingenuous George W. Bush-era term "fuzziness" to describe the biggest issue facing the General Assembly this session. It suggested a lack of complete understanding or engagement. Perhaps both.

From this and many other historical asides, it is clear that Hutchinson has more thoughtful work to do.

In the interim, the Republican Governor's Association has launched the first of what I assume will be many television ads attempting convince voters the race is really about Obama. I cannot predict whether Arkansans will be susceptible to it, although I tend to believe that blind fidelity to an anti-Obama strategy will provide only comforting illusions of victory. 

(Blake Rutherford is vice president of The McLarty Companies and previously was chief of staff to the Arkansas attorney general. You can follow him on Twitter at BlakeRutherford. His column appears every other Wednesday in the weekly Government & Politics e-newsletter. You can subscribe for free here.)



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