In a poll conducted Feb. 4 by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College, Sen. Ted Cruz was leading the Republican field with 27 percent, while Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio each had 23 percent.
No surprises there. Cruz was a big winner not long ago in a straw poll among Republican Party insiders. Rubio, as of Feb. 4, was the rising establishment choice. The day before, he’d been endorsed by two of Arkansas’ congressmen, Reps. Rick Crawford and Steve Womack, and by Lt. Governor Tim Griffin. And Trump is, well, Trump, the darling of a sizable percentage of the electorate who want somebody, anybody, other than a politician. (And the only one who could fill up much of Barton Coliseum, as he did Feb. 3.) Ben Carson, also not a politician, was fourth at 11 percent, while Carly Fiorina – again, not a politician – had 4 percent.
At the bottom of the standings were Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who also had 4 percent support, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 1 percent and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 1 percent.
That’s 6 percent total for the three governors who have actually led state governments in large diverse states, tried to balance budgets, worked with legislators from both parties, responded to disasters, made court appointments, spoken on behalf of all their citizens – in other words, sort of what presidents do.
Meanwhile, 88 percent are supporting the candidates whose political resumes are, well, a little thinner. Like President Obama before them, Cruz (age 45) and Rubio (age 44) are young, first-term senators. Trump, Carson and Fiorina have almost no political experience between them, though they have achieved much elsewhere.
Elections are about hiring a person to do a job. But if that were their only purpose, the three governors would have been doing better than 6 percent between them.
Elections also are about giving voters the chance to express their values, and this year, “proven political leadership” is not one of them. They’re angry, and, as is usually the case in a democracy, angry about different things. A lot of voters aren’t looking for someone who can make the trains run on time. They want someone who says they’ll tear up the tracks and replace them with something else.
That’s how you get a Trump or a Cruz or, on the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders. As with Trump, know-it-alls like me have said all along that he can’t win, and he probably still can’t. The race now moves South, where the advantage goes to Clinton. The Talk Business poll has the state’s former first lady leading 57-25 here – again, before the New Hampshire primary. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has stacked the deck against Sanders. Despite his big win in New Hampshire, Clinton leads in the delegate count, 394-44, thanks to all the party’s superdelegates who have pledged their loyalty to her.
But Sanders, who raised $5.2 million in the 18 hours after his New Hampshire victory speech, isn’t going away – especially not this year, with this electorate.
Arkansans don’t vote until March 1, and a lot can change between now and then. Since the poll was conducted Feb. 4, Rubio’s balloon was deflated by a poor debate performance and then a disappointing fifth place finish in New Hampshire. Kasich finished second in that state but will have a tough time following that up. Christie and Fiorina have since dropped out of the race. Clinton – she’s damaged.
One other thing that might affect the vote count: Mike Huckabee may have suspended his campaign, but he’s still on the ballot, as are Christie and Fiorina and Rand Paul and all the other candidates who once formed that l-o-o-ng line on the debate stage. So Arkansans still will choose from 13 candidates, one of them a favorite son.
Still, it’s hard to see how the race’s overall dynamic will change in Arkansas. Among the Republicans, it’s Cruz and Trump and Rubio, probably in that order, with the governors trailing well behind.
The Democrats – superdelegates and others – will support the state’s former first lady, of course.
Related: Kasich, the anti-Trump