Jay Barth, political science professor at Hendrix College, says new data suggests that plans for Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ coronation as governor might be premature.
I wasn’t making any plans. I was merely dreading the inevitability.
Despite the learned insight of Dr. Barth, I’ll continue the dread, no matter a new poll that is more a curiosity than harbinger.
I refer to a survey of 375 respondents by landline and mobile calls June 26-28 into the state’s two-county Prosperity Corner. I mean Benton and Washington counties, mainly the Fayetteville-to-Bentonville corridor abutting Missouri and Oklahoma and having more in common with Tulsa and Kansas City than anything east and south.
The poll was conducted by Talk Business and Politics, Hendrix and the Impact Management consulting group. It was done for Talk Business’ regional publication in the region, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal.
The poll asked pleasant questions about quality of life, use of hiking trails and favorite local chief executive officer.
It asked a pointed question about serving beer and wine during Razorback athletic events, finding a few more respondents asserting opposition than support.
While it had folks on the phone, it asked a lagniappe as to whether a reported Sanders’ run for governor in 2022 would be good or bad for the state.
Barth based his analysis on the finding that 40 percent of respondents said such a candidacy would be bad for the state while 37.5 percent said good, with the rest possessing no opinion.
He is surmising that 40 percent is a high number for instinctive aversion for a prospective Republican candidate in a Republican region.
I find it high but ultimately inconsequential.
By all indications, the next governor of Arkansas–indeed, all major offices in Arkansas–will be decided in the Republican primary. Democrats will not win again in the state until there is a currently unforeseen change in nationalized politics defined by Fox News and fueled by Trump bluster.
Whoever wins the Republican gubernatorial nomination will almost assuredly become governor, even if that nominee galvanizes ferocious resistance among badly outnumbered Democrats.
Asa Hutchinson just got re-elected by nearly 70 percent. The next Republican governor, be it Sanders or Tim Griffin or Leslie Rutledge or Jim Hendren, will get less than that. But there is plenty of slack in 70 percent.
Sanders, owing to the fire of the resentment of her, might get a lower general-election percentage than any of the others. But a 57-43 win–about as low as I could currently imagine–would make her as much governor as 70-30.
On that front, 59.5 percent of Republican respondents in this poll thought Sanders’ candidacy would be good for the state, and only 19 thought it would be bad.
Those are the numbers to emphasize while remembering that she would campaign in a Republican primary with her own celebrity as well as Trump’s and her dad’s.
It’s not that Arkansas Republicans adore Trump’s style, though some do. It’s that they like that Sarah stood up for him loyally against the enemy, the liberals and the media. She will return to Republican county committee meetings a heroine of distant war with Jim Acosta.
That sentiment is probably stronger in rural sections of the state than along the dynamic Fayetteville-Bentonville path.
Those are the good reasons Rutledge wouldn’t run if Sanders did and that Griffin is said to have been in a state of high agitation ever since his president announced that Sanders was going home to Arkansas where, he hoped, she would run for governor.
It might be that a Jim Hendren candidacy, offering a northwest Arkansas residence and a promise of four more years of Uncle Asa-like governing, would trouble Sanders most.
That contest would present an irony: The Huckabee candidate as the conservative and the Hutchinson-Hendren one as the pragmatist. It once was the other way around.
One other thing I hesitate to bring up: I might be one of Sanders’ biggest problems, presuming the iPad app is being widely read in 2022. That’s because I’ve admitted to admiring her a bit, at least before the Trump tragedy.
Recent evidence suggests that the lone influence these columns carry is negative in Republican primaries toward any Republican I curse with mild approval–Duncan Baird, who lost a Republican treasurer’s primary, and John Burris, who lost a Republican state Senate primary.
The only Republican primary combatant I ever preferred who won was Asa over the Gun Goddess, and that hardly counts.
I assert that Sanders, her unforgivable Trump apologia notwithstanding, would be a less-horrible governor than either Griffin or Rutledge, if not than Hendren, whose candidacy I doubt. She’d have certain dad-like moderating tendencies or mom-like cussedly independent ones.
That preceding paragraph is something she surely would prefer that I delete.
I’m thinking about it.
Nope. Not going to do it. I choose to let the chips fall.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 07/18/2019
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