HAZEN, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln on Saturday said her status as a moderate Democrat is even more valuable in a divided Washington as she and Republican challenger John Boozman expressed optimism days before voters decide whether Lincoln can keep her job.
Lincoln has been trying to leave voters with the impression her moderate reputation will help the state as she faces the final days of an uphill re-election fight against Boozman, a Republican congressman from northwest Arkansas. Lincoln campaigned in Little Rock and east Arkansas, while Boozman spent the day off the campaign trail visiting his mother in Van Buren.
Lincoln is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Washington seeking re-election and trails Boozman in most polls. But she said she remains hopeful about her odds as she fights for a third term.
Lincoln, who survived a bruising primary and runoff for the Democratic nomination in the spring, continued to tout her status as a centrist as an asset in Washington.
"It's the people in the middle that are coming up with the things that need to happen step by step. It's not the extremes," Lincoln told The Associated Press as she campaigned at the Grand Prairie Rice Festival in Hazen. "That's why I've certainly been willing...to take moderate steps or take stands, whether it's challenging my side or challenging the other side."
Boozman has repeatedly challenged that image, saying Lincoln is too closely aligned with President Barack Obama — who remains deeply unpopular in the state.
"The people of Arkansas have rejected the direction that the president is pushing us in," Boozman told the AP in a telephone interview, citing Lincoln's support of the health care overhaul as an example. "These are the things that Senator Lincoln has gone along with, and the average Arkansan just doesn't agree."
The health care vote has been the target of anger from both the right and the left for Lincoln as she seeks another term. Republicans have criticized her support of the health care law, and she faced a backlash from some Democrats for opposing a government-run insurance option as part of the health reform.
That anger on the left fueled an unsuccessful attempt by Lt. Gov. Bill Halter to unseat Lincoln in the primary and runoff earlier this year.
Lincoln has returned to some of the same arguments she used during race against Halter, touting her independence and also promoting her seniority in Washington. Lincoln chairs the powerful Senate Agriculture Committee, and repeatedly talked up her support of farmers as she stumped in this east Arkansas city.
"I think people are realizing they've got a good investment in me," Lincoln said.
Danny Holmes, a mailman from Hazen, said he would likely vote for Lincoln after talking with her at the festival. Holmes, 64, said he wasn't pleased with Lincoln's vote for the health care overhaul but said he believed she had helped the area.
"Just because she voted for something I'm against doesn't mean I think we should get rid of her," Holmes said.
Democrats are trying to prevent the Republican Party from making major gains in other races throughout Arkansas. Aside from Lincoln's seat, Republicans are hopeful they can pick up two congressional seats currently held by Democrats.
On the Web
Arkansas Secretary of State: http://www.votenaturally.org/
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