Robert Coon, Blake Rutherford On Last Night's Runoffs

by Robert Coon, Blake Rutherford and Lance Turner  on Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2014 8:28 am  

John Burris, one of the architects of the private option, defeated in the GOP runoff election for a state Senate seat. (Photo by Arkansas Times)

In that way, I think there is room to maneuver. It will matter a great deal who is in the governor's office, too, and how much political capital that person is willing to spend on its reauthorization.

Robert: I agree that the private option continues to be a mixed bag generally. It appears to be more positively viewed among the general electorate than it is among Republican primary voters.

However, I still contend that even in a race where the private option is viewed negatively, it can't be the sole message of campaign if they expect to be successful. Voters will get easily fatigued by candidates running on one issue alone. But I think it’s been shown to be effective as part of a broader effort to contrast a candidate with his or her opponent.  

In regards to the reauthorization, I'd say it is somewhat in doubt at the moment. But the legislative process allows for lots of twists, turns and compromises that could ultimately provide the necessary margin - and there are certainly enough creative people at the Capitol looking for those potential changes.

Rutledge Stands Her Ground

Lance: Let's look at the night's other big race: Leslie Rutledge and David Sterling for the GOP nomination for attorney general, which Robert has noted could be historic. What’s your reaction to Rutledge's win? And what does the big outside money in the race portend for the fall?

Robert: Rutledge was able to seal the deal by repeating her primary election night performance in the more populated counties: Benton, Washington, Pulaski, Saline and Garland. And while Sterling was able to win 28 of the 75 counties, his successes just didn't occur where the large numbers of votes were.

From an issue standpoint, I still question the use of Stand Your Ground as the main contrast point by the outside money groups in this race. I just don't think it was effective. I'm not convinced that Arkansas voters are familiar enough with that issue (or care enough) for it to be a determining factor in who they support. Granted, neither candidate in this race had a voting record to dig through and analyze, so the issue options were presumably limited.

Ultimately I think it's fair to assume that the outside money sticks around, and in some fashion makes a shift to supporting Rutledge over [Democratic opponent Nate] Steel. But now that the field is set, I would imagine we'll soon see some Democratic-leaning groups start to engage to level the playing field for Steel as well.

Blake: It was a long three weeks, and I don't know that going in the Republicans had a lot to be enthusiastic about. I'm not sure they have any more reason to be enthusiastic now, although Leslie Rutledge is a much better general election candidate than David Sterling. Whether that is saying all that much, I don't know.

It was an unattractive primary - one where I seemed to learn more about issues that don't pertain to the attorney general's office than anything else. That's a consequence of novices in a race, especially Sterling (although Rutledge's pro-gun dogmatism had me waiting for an ad of her holding a shotgun in a rocking chair, even though that's been done before, I think).

All that said, outside groups flooded the race, which should give Democrat Nate Steel pause. He hasn't had to do much by virtue of being unopposed. He's bright and talented, and he has the tools to be a very persuasive candidate.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.