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Sen. Blanche Lincoln fights for her political life

As a 'Blue Dog' Democrat, Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas has often sided with Republicans. But that's left Democrats grumbling and the GOP thinking she's an easy target in the 2010 elections.

By Suzi ParkerCorrespondent / February 5, 2010

US Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) of Arkansas faces a tough reelection fight. Republicans are lining up to run against her, and she may yet face Democratic opposition in the primary election.

Danny Johnston/AP


Little Rock, Ark.

By all accounts, Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas is one of the most endangered Senate Democrats facing reelection – so much so that Republicans are lining up to challenge her.

On Saturday, US Rep. John Boozman jumps into the crowded GOP primary field – the 10th candidate – in hopes of defeating Senator Lincoln in November. In some polls, Representative Boozman already leads Lincoln by double digits. Even lesser-known candidates have large leads against her. A poll this week shows Lincoln with a 27 percent approval rating – bad news for an incumbent.

“Lincoln continues to trail most of the GOP candidates and her job numbers remain anemic,” says Jennifer Duffy, a senior analyst at The Cook Political Report. “She was forced to push back on rumors about two weeks ago that she would retire because her poll numbers are so weak.”

During her two Senate terms, Lincoln has strived to be a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat. She hails from a state that has a Democratic statehouse and congressional delegation, but that historically votes Republican in presidential elections. In the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama lost Arkansas to Republican John McCain by 20 percentage points.

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Interest groups on the Democratic side continue to target her on myriad fronts – the environment, healthcare reform, the Employee Free Choice Act, gay and lesbian issues. Even local farmers want her to be more supportive of them rather than big agriculture.

Earlier this week, Lincoln danced on a political high wire at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee Issues Conference in Washington when she urged President Obama “to push back on ideological extremes at both ends of the political spectrum,” according to Lincoln’s news release.

A prickly exchange with Obama

She also said that one of her constituents “fears that there's no one in your administration that understands what it means to go to work on Monday and make a payroll on Friday.”

In turn, Mr. Obama pressed back, cautioning Democrats against wanting to return to the Bush administration’s agenda.

“If our response ends up being, you know, because we don't want to – we don't want to stir things up here, we're just going to do the same thing that was being done before, then I don't know what differentiates us from the other guys,” Obama said.

When asked if the question and answer session with Obama would be viewed as positive or negative in the campaign, Lincoln campaign spokeswoman Katie Laning Niebaum said, “She does not view the question-and-answer session through a campaign lens.”

Obama’s strong words toward the moderate faction of his party hit Lincoln directly.