- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2010

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, already one of the most endangered Democrats in the upcoming election, now has drawn a primary challenge from Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Mr. Halter officially will file for the race Tuesday, but in a Web video released overnight Monday, he said he’s entering the race to give voters an outsider’s voice to send to Washington.

“Bailing out Wall Street, with no strings attached, while leaving middle-class Arkansas taxpayers with the bill. Protecting insurance company profits instead of patients and lowering health costs. Gridlock, bickering and partisan games while unemployment is at a 25-year high. Enough is enough,” he said.

Mrs. Lincoln, seeking her third Senate term, occasionally bucks her party on major issues such as including a government-run public option in the health care bill, but she still has struggled to appeal to Arkansas voters who lean conservative on many national issues such as health care and President Obama’s global-warming plans.

Polls already showed her trailing potential Republican challengers and showed her approval rating in the tank.

But those same polls suggest Mr. Halter will share Mrs. Lincoln’s challenge. A survey by Public Policy Polling released early last month showed Mr. Halter trailing a potential leading Republican candidate by more than 20 percentage points.

That Republican is Rep. John Boozman, though several other Republicans, including state Sen. Gilbert Baker, are in the race for their party’s nomination, and polls show them also as strong contenders against the Democrats.

Republicans cheered Mr. Halter’s entry, saying the primary will further damage Mrs. Lincoln.

Meanwhile, Rep. Nathan Deal, a second-term Georgia Republican, announced Monday morning he is giving up his seat to pursue his gubernatorial bid.

He is part of a crowded Republican primary field seeking to succeed term-limited Gov. Sonny Perdue. On the Democratic side the likely nominee is former Gov. Roy Barnes, whom Mr. Perdue defeated in 2002.