WASHINGTON – Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, a chief architect of the U.S. financial regulation overhaul, faces an uphill battle for re-election on November 2, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Tuesday.
The poll found that Republican candidate John Boozman, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2001, has a 19-point lead over Lincoln, 54 percent to 35 percent.
The survey of 600 registered Arkansas voters Friday through Sunday suggests Lincoln is encountering the same anti-incumbent wave afflicting other politicians as Americans express frustration at Washington. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
"There's a general incumbent backlash and she hasn't been able to stave it off," Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said. It is still early, he said, "but in a relative sense she's not in a good position."
The poll found that Lincoln is not getting much credit for her role in the U.S. financial regulation overhaul that President Barack Obama will sign into law on Wednesday.
Lincoln authored a tough provision of the bill that sharply limits Wall Street firms' involvement in the trading of some complex derivatives, which worsened the 2007-2009 financial crisis and led to a $182 billion taxpayer bailout of the insurance firm AIG.
When poll participants were asked who fights for Main Street over Wall Street, 42 percent chose Boozman and 29 percent chose Lincoln. Asked who is tough on banks, 29 percent picked Lincoln and 32 percent picked Boozman, who voted against the financial overhaul.
"There's a disconnect between her role and what people actually know of her role," said an Arkansas Democratic strategist who asked to remain unidentified. "People aren't connecting the dots. That will be her challenge to do."
BEEBE LEADS IN GOVERNOR'S RACE
By contrast, the poll found that Arkansas' Democratic governor, Mike Beebe, is rolling along easily in his re-election bid. He has a 22-point lead, 57 percent to 35 percent, over Republican candidate Jim Keet.
Arkansas, with an economy heavy reliant on farming, has weathered the U.S. recession better than some states, providing some benefit to Beebe. Its jobless rate declined in June from 7.7 percent to 7.5 percent, compared to the U.S. national rate of 9.5 percent.
Still, 57 percent of those polled said the economy was the biggest problem facing former President Bill Clinton's home state, with the government and politicians seen as the second-biggest problem, at 14 percent.
All 435 House seats and 10 Senate seats are up for grabs in the November elections. Republicans hope to seize control of the House from Democrats. To challenge Democratic control in the Senate, Republicans need 10 seats, including that of Lincoln.
Lincoln survived a strong challenge for the Democratic nomination in early June in her bid for a third six-year term by narrowly defeating Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter after most political analysts had written her off.
But with that victory came the challenge of fending off Boozman in a state where Obama is not popular. Republican John McCain defeated Obama by 20 points in the 2008 presidential election.
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