LITTLE ROCK -- Have you noticed? The closer Election Day comes, the more conservative some blue-dog senators sound. Till they turn almost Republican red. Consider the case of Blanche Lincoln here in Arkansas. By the time the primary is held in May, this state's senior senator could be speaking at Tea Party rallies. A headline on the front page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said it all: "Pressure on the rise for Arkansas' Lincoln/ Amid criticism, she chides party, Obama." To quote the story's lede:
"U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln distanced herself from Democrats over and over last week. On Tuesday, the Arkansan told the Senate Finance Committee that she doesn't understand the Obama administration's economic vision. With cameras rolling, she blasted the White House's proposed budget and told Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about life in what she called 'the real world.' Then, while Geithner was still testifying, she darted to a news conference to tout get-tougher-on-terrorism legislation with 2008 Republican presidential nominee (and Arizona senior senator) John McCain...."
Then there was Sen. Lincoln's little confrontation with the president himself at his pow-wow with congressional Democrats. He essentially brushed off her concerns about the party's extremists. Indeed, he brushed her off. After all, Barack Obama isn't the one who's up for re-election this year in a basically conservative state. Who says he's not willing to sacrifice (a Democratic senator) for his principles?
It's long been standard operating procedure for Democratic incumbents in Arkansas to morph into flag-waving conservatives as campaign season arrives. This year Miss Blanche is doing it at warp speed. She's just following the poll numbers. Not just Arkansas but the whole country -- even Massachusetts! -- has begun to react against the Obama-mania that was sweeping the nation just about this time last year. Enthusiasms change. Sometimes diametrically.
The same senior senator from Arkansas who supported that 2,000-page monstrosity of a health-care bill now has turned into a spirited critic of the party leaders whose bidding she once did.