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You wouldn't think a Democrat would have much chance of winning a Senate seat in Arkansas, one of the redder red states around, but with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, there are a lot of red state Democrats feeling hopeful. One of them is Conner Eldridge, a former U.S. attorney for the state, who's hoping to bring down John Boozman, a first-term senator who ascended from the House in the teabagger wave of 2010. Eldridge won himself several metric fucktons of free media attention for a very slick ad he released this week tying Boozman to Trump, so we figured that's as good a reason as any to feature Arkansas this week in our countdown of Senate races. Take a look at this ad and imagine variations on it running in every state where a Democrat is trying to unseat a vulnerable Republican incumbent:


It hasn't aired as a paid ad anywhere in Arkansas yet, but it's been all over cable news, and rightwing Never-Trumper Erick Erickson wrote of it,

This is brutal. This is exactly what you can expect throughout the country in the general election. This is the ad for the Democratic challenger in Arkansas and provides a helpful roadmap to other Democrats on how they are going to take back the Senate.

For perhaps the first time ever, we hope Erick Erickson is exactly right.

First thing to get out of the way: Even though (like "John Boehner") it's more fun to pronounce Boozman the way it's spelled, it's actually pronounced like "Bozeman," the city in Montana. John Boozman isn't at the top of anyone's list of endangered Republican senators, but his campaign was considered weak enough that last November Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell gave Boozman a talking-to, warning him he'd better ramp up his fundraising -- at the time, Eldridge had actually been pulling in more contributions than Boozman, although as of January, the Republican money machine had turned things around, and Boozman's fundraising was roughly double Eldridge's. Boozman's major contributors are the usual collection of industrialists and keep-wages-low interests, including Walmart, Tyson Foods, and of course Koch industries.

And what a swell fellow he is! He's voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act, against the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," and of course against ratifying a UN treaty on the rights of people with disabilities, probably because that would result in a loss of U.S. sovereignty and maybe blue-helmeted UN troops installing wheelchair ramps in your house whether you want them or not (we are extrapolating from standard wingnut rhetoric on that one). Not surprisingly, in 2013 he voted against Hurricane Sandy emergency aid, although when he was in the House, he was happy to vote for a bill to provide federal funds to help fix sewers in Arkansas. Man knows what a real emergency is. Also, an amusing side-story from Yr Wonkette archives: back in ancient history (2004), Boozman was surprised to learn the web domain "boozmanforcongress.com" had already been purchased by somebody who redirected it to a gay porn site (now defunct, alas. Of course we checked. Journalistic due diligence and all).

Not surprisingly, Boozman hates Obamacare and would rather replace its Medicaid expansion with block grants to the states, because "block grants to the states" are the automatic Republican answer for any federal program they'd like to kill. Also no surprise: He has an "A" rating from the anti-immigration group "NumbersUSA." Build that damn wall. He's one of the few Republican senators who has met with Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, although of course he'd never ever dream of allowing a confirmation vote. Even that was worrying enough to rightwingers that the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette felt compelled to defend Boozman as merely being a polite gentleman, not about to give in to the liberal agenda.

Conner Eldridge seems like a nice enough guy (how's that for hard-hitting political analysis?); given the hoopla that one ad has generated, you have to filter out "Trump" to search out other information on him. There's his campaign page, of course, and also a nice recent interview on Arkansas State University's public radio station that we can't embed, the boogers. In the interview, he really sounds like a red-state Dem, stressing his ability to be independent, reach agreement across the partisan divide, and of course his tough-but-smart credentials as a prosecutor, which he'll use to "keep government accountable." He advocates for making high-speed internet available in rural areas, to promote jobs and the economy of course, not because he's a big government liberal -- he talks about cutting regulations that impede growth, but emphasizes regulations that encourage entrepreneurialism, not just slashing regulations because they're BAD. He supports Arkansas's expansion of Medicaid -- a hybrid program using Medicaid funds to help purchase private plans, and has made Boozman's over 50 votes to repeal Obamacare one of his main talking points, calling "any talk of repeal [of Obamacare] political demagoguery." He's also in favor of expanded agricultural trade with Cuba, which is nice. He's opposed to the TPP, and likes "Fair Trade" a whole lot. Dude knows he's running in Arkansas, so he carefully says he opposes federal funding for abortion but supports funding women's healthcare, which is code for "wouldn't slash Planned Parenthood."

Also, in one of those campaign stunts that seems endearingly goofy, he treated his family to a "Spring Break Road Trip" in which he traveled all over Arkansas with his wife and three sons, which sounds like loads of fun, according to his press release:

"Arkansas has a lot to offer the world: incredible natural beauty; a rich heritage; amazing museums, galleries and local artists; and, some of the most hospitable people and places around,” said Eldridge. “It’s why tourism is one of our state’s top industries, creating jobs and bringing important revenue to our communities and state. I want my three boys to enjoy everything our state has to offer, and I want to preserve and protect what makes Arkansas so special so their children can one day experience the same."

Also, the kids are pretty cute, and young enough that they probably didn't whine too much about having to go to the Ozark Folk Center instead of Disneyland.

Eldridge has enough of a plausible chance that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is throwing funding and an endorsement his way, which isn't true of every Dem in an overwhelmingly Republican-dominated state. He's also picked up an endorsement from End Citizens United, a PAC donating money to candidates pledging to curtail the influence of PACs.

All in all, Eldridge sounds like a very cautious red-state Democrat whose main appeal is that he's not the Republican incumbent, and considering that we're talking about Arkansas here, that's plenty. You know he wouldn't vote against VAWA, for godssake. Also, man, that's one good ad.

Want to help Conner Eldridge run against Donald Trump John Boozman? Toss some dollars his way at his campaign website! You can also help Yr Wonkettestay on top of the 2016 races with a contribution to your favorite mommyblog, for Mother's Day, yeah.

[NYT / Deadspin / The Resurgent / Roll Call / TalkBusiness / CNN / Democrat-Gazette / KASU / Open Secrets]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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