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Arkansas: last bastion of the Southern Democrat poised to fall

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“The overarching Republican campaign tactic appears to be to tie Democratic nominees to the national Democratic party, the liberal label, and some controversial policies, symbolized by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid,” says Hal Bass, a political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. “In this campaign season, Southern Democrats are having great difficulty separating themselves from their national party. That is something many Southern Democrats have been trying to do at least since the late 1930s.”

Two House seats in play

While the First and Second Congressional Districts are not similar demographically, both are open seats in a year that favors Republicans.

In January, Rep. Marion Berry, who was elected by the impoverished First District in 1996, announced his retirement. So did Rep. Vic Snyder, who was elected by the Second District in 1996, as well. With incumbents out of the way, Republicans seized the momentum at a time when the state’s political landscape is shifting from conservative, so-called Blue Dog Democrats to Republicans.

In the Second, Tim Griffin, a former aide in the Bush White House and a military veteran, leads Democratic candidate Joyce Elliott, a state legislator who is seeking to become the first black to represent Arkansas in Washington, by 12 points, according to a Oct. 14 Hendrix College poll.

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