Before he even formally announces for the race, the looming candidacy of Former State Senator Jim Holt for U.S. Senate has drawn out an online stream of venom and vitriol from insiders and establishment types. It seems there are some in the Republican party who loathe the very idea of Holt jumping in. The comments are mostly a series of scurrilous lies and hyper-ventilated claims of the impending doom of the whole Republican party in this state (such as it is) if Holt is the nominee.
The lies are so insubstantial that most of them should not be dignified with a response. The shrill claims that Holt will drag down the ticket are recycled from 06. I want to set the record straight, because the players who are terrified of Holt are not terrified of him because they are afraid he will cause other Republicans to lose, but rather that he, the "wrong kind of Republican" in their view, will win. These alleged Republicans say they would rather see Blanche win that vote for Holt. This fits with an observation I have long had that the insiders of each establishment party get along with each other much better than they do the true reformers in their own party.
In short, they despise a man who is not for sale because in their hearts they know how they got their own money. A few (not many) of these are office holders themselves, and they say the same things that Holt says near election time, but they despise Jim Holt because he actually believes those things. He really believes what he is telling the voters. And he votes accordingly despite full-court pressure to bend. That group of GOP insiders despise Holt the way all that is counterfeit hates that which is real. For it shows them to be what they really are.
For some in politics, the real goal is to keep the loot restricted to the insiders. To favored businesses and causes. To them "conservative" means only that the people who have always run things (to the benefit of them and their friends at the expense of the general public) are the ones who should keep running things. Any man who who is not inside the club is a threat to their loot. To these rascals social issues are either annoying distractions from the important business of dividing plunder from the treasury, or just window dressing to fire up the rubes and get their group of looters in over the other group. A man like Holt, who really wants to cut government spending, end special favors to the well-connected, and let the people keep more of what they earn, is a real party-pooper. Why won't the man be "reasonable" and step into the inner circle? Its so nice and cozy in here. Look at the money you can raise if the insiders know you are one of them!
At any rate, in their efforts to derail Holt (and not only him, but in this state he is the best example) they are attempting to revise history. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind people of what actually happened so that you will be fortified when the bad guys try to use volume and repetition to attempt to revise history.
1) What Holt did in 04 was universally hailed as a near miracle at the time. What he did was get about 44% of the vote against an incumbent Senator who spent $4 million dollars when he only spent $150,000, got no help from the GOP establishment, and had to fight the newspapers to boot. As recently as last week no less a Holt critic than Brummett was still marvelling at that outcome
The GOP insiders are now trying to spin that election as some kind of proof that Holt is a loser. David Sanders for example, wrote of the 45 year old Holt, "I think his time has come and gone". This was the day before Sanders accepted a campaign position for Stanley Reed for the US Senate race. Sanders did not mention in the article that tried to write Holt off that he was about to take a job in a rival campaign. The Reed campaign lasted all of eight days before its time had "come and gone" and Sanders went back to his newspaper job with notably attenuated credibility.
There are also claims that Lincoln did not spend much money that campaign. Again, she spent four million dollars against Holt's $150,000. The insiders are mostly liberal republicans who think that the key to winning "swing voters" is to go left. That mythical swing voter does not exist. The typical swing voter does not have a fixed ideology, that is why they swing. They cast their vote according to how they like people and who makes their case with the most passion and skill. Some of them are more conservative than the average NWA Republican. And Holt has gotten more of them to vote for him than any Arkansas Republican alive.
I don't just say that as a phrase, but as a mathematical certainty. In the 04 race Holt got more people to vote for him than ever voted for a Huckabee or a Hutchinson. He holds the record for most votes ever received by a living Arkansas Republican. It is simply impossible for that to be true unless Holt is able to get non-traditional GOP voters to vote for him. The charge that Holt is unable to attract independents and crossover voters is, with mathematical certitude, false. It is based on a misunderstanding of who most of these voters are and what drives them.
One last charge in that race is that Bush beat Kerry in Arkansas so it is not saying much that Holt kept it pretty close against Lincoln. This is pure spin. Kerry was a known Massachusetts liberal. Blanche is a known Virginia liberal, but it was not known at that time. If Holt had run against Kerry in Arkansas, Holt would have plastered Kerry too. Bush was from neighboring Texas, was the incumbent, was running against a liberal from a state Arkansans are dubious about, and Kerry quit spending money here once it was clear Bush would win the state. It is just not a fair comparison. Kerry wasn't even trying in this state.
2) Two years later, Bush was wildly unpopular and for good reason. Holt ran for Lt. Governor, and this time the establishment was going to fight him for it. They thought he had a chance to win. They sent in Governor Huckabee's floor leader, Rep. Doug Matayo, and Attorney Chuck Banks. Again came the accusations that Holt was too extreme to win and that he would be a drag on the whole Republican ticket. Holt won the three way primary without a run off, getting just shy of 56% of the vote while spending only 17% of the money spent in that race. The establishment types responded with their usual class and decorum. Banks never did endorse Holt as is customary for people interested in "bringing the party together". Matayo never endorsed Holt by name, saying only "I support the Republican candidate."
This just underscores the truism. When the establishment types start screaming that Holt is unelectable, to the extent it is true it is only because they won't let it be true. They won't hold their nose and vote for him like they expect the grassroots to do when they saddle people with another establishment hack. Instead, they get their tongues moving and join the opposition, all they while claiming HE is not a loyal Republican!
In the general election, there was a drag on the ticket, but it was not Jim Holt. It was Bush. People were so mad at him that they took it out on the Republicans that they could vote against. People did not know or care what a Lt. Governor did, they just wanted to send a message to Washington. I remember Holt being exasperated when his usual campaign magic did not work at bringing people over, "they are not giving me a chance, they don't like Bush" he reported.
His magic did not completely fail. Holt got more votes than any Republican in Arkansas in 06. What that means is that Holt got more independents who did not vote for any other Republican to vote for him. This again puts to rest the charge that Holt has no crossover appeal. Holt did not drag the ticket down, he dragged it up, but not enough to overcome the stigma of Bush. He had more crossover appeal than any Republican on the ballot. The problem was not that Holt was weak, but that the Republican label was weak. That's not Holt's fault. It is the fault of the insiders who have run the party both state and nationally, the same ones that are fighting Jim Holt tooth and nail. I want to ad that Asa Hutchinson and his team could afford to do polling, and they started showing up at Holt events all over the state. Would they do that if their polling data showed that Holt hurt them with the crossover voters?
When I say that Holt got no support from the state or national party, I want to emphasize that this is not true on the county level. The county committees were almost all staunch supporters. This might be expected towards a candidate who won 149 of 150 counties in two state-wide primaries. They gave what little resources they had. But the big money is from DC, and much of that flows to the state. It does not reach the counties.
In September and October it became clear from the polls that there was one race that was closer than the others, Lt. Governor. The Democrats saw that, and they dumped an extra $250,000 to help Halter by running a series of outrageous attack ads on Holt. Mrs. Holt and I asked then GOP Chairman Gilbert Baker for help from the party like Halter was getting from his. I asked him for this helped immediately after he bragged to us about how he just got back from Washington and had raised another huge amount of money for the state party. He then backed off saying that he had no control over how the money was spent.
I don't know that he was lying, but I didn't believe him then and I don't now. For all I know, even back then he had his eye on the US Senate race and did not want Jim Holt around as the obvious choice against Blanche, which he would have been if he had been the only Republican to win a state wide office. He has taken elaborate pains to give the impression that he was NOT going to seek the Senate seat, but there have been some puzzling cracks in that story.
Regardless, the point is that the state party was no help. We could barely even get them to do a press release for us. I am not kidding, they were that sorry. Their "opposition research" actually came back and bit us. It was on Halter's property tax. I kept saying that it looked like a misunderstanding, but they insisted that it was solid. They got Jim all fired up about it. It turned out it was a misunderstanding as I suspected. It made Halter, who has plenty of real dirty, look vindicated. The party slinked away, almost apologizing to him for bringing it up. To say they were no help is an understatement, they were a drag on the campaign.
The ads the Dems were running attacking Holt were so over the top that if we had had money we could have skewered them on the counterpunch, but we did not have it. It all went to Asa. He is a good guy, but they were putting all of their eggs in one basket, and a basket that was much less likely to make it to table than the Holt basket. The Democrats played it smart and shifted resources to the one race that was truly close going into the final stretch.
Some people think that Holt has already had two chances. Truth is, he has never even had one chance. He has never had the backing of the establishment because he sticks by his principles and gets in the way of what they are trying to do to grow government. He even tells on them sometimes. Just once, I'd like to see what he could do if he actually had backing from the party apparatus (as someone who wins the nomination is supposed to) instead of passive-aggressive resistance. I suspect I will never find out, but the good news is that the people are getting wise like never before. It may be that Holt and those like him can start winning even without their help. There are Tea Parties out there now, the internet is helping people get the truth out. Blanche can't hide who she is now no matter how much special interests give her to buy ads. This may be the year of the regular citizen, in that a guy like Holt can win even without the insider's help. And if Holt can pull that off, he will win and won't owe them one d@#n thing.