WASHINGTON Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, a key player in U.S. financial regulation legislation, remains far behind in an uphill battle for re-election on November 2, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found on Wednesday.
Republican John Boozman, a member of the House of Representatives, holds a hefty 14-point lead among likely voters of 53 percent to 39 percent for Lincoln.
It is only a slight improvement for the Democrat since a July poll had her behind by a 54 percent to 35 percent margin, and it is the latest evidence that Lincoln is suffering from the same anti-incumbency wave that other politicians are grappling with in this volatile year of high unemployment.
"At this moment, Boozman is the pretty easy winner," said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark. "Lincoln is certainly fighting for her political life."
But the poll found some glimmers of hope for Lincoln with six weeks to go until congressional elections in which Republicans are expected to make a comeback after devastating losses in 2006 and 2008. All 435 House of Representatives seats and about one-third of Senate seats are up for grabs.
Lincoln has seen a 10-percentage point improvement since mid-July in being seen as someone who will "fight for Main Street over Wall Street," while Boozman has seen a drop of 4 points.
A farmer's daughter, Lincoln authored a tough provision in the financial overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law in July. The reform sharply limits Wall Street firms' involvement in the trading of some complex derivatives, which worsened the 2007-2009 financial crisis and led to a $182 billion taxpayer bailout of the insurance firm AIG.
Worried about the high unemployment rate, voters look likely to punish Obama's Democrats at the election. Republicans are set to win the House of Representatives, although the Senate should stay in Democrats' hands, Ipsos pollster Cliff Young says. To challenge Democratic control in the Senate, Republicans need 10 seats, including that of Lincoln.
Republicans will try to reverse some of the Wall Street crackdown and Obama's healthcare reform if they win big in November. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander blamed the overhauls for stifling business sentiment.
"You have job creators hiding in their closets wondering what the next thing the administration's going to do that makes it harder for them to create new jobs," Alexander told the Reuters Washington Summit on Wednesday.
SOME HOPE FOR LINCOLN
In Arkansas, Lincoln is now seen as less likely to "say anything to win votes" compared to the last poll, down to 40 percent who believe this compared to 48 percent in July. Boozman has gone up in this measure from 18 percent to 26 percent.
And Lincoln has gone up 4 percentage points to 38 percent on being seen as a "strong leader for Arkansas" and Boozman's ratings on this have dropped from 51 percent to 43 percent.
Clark said it appears that campaigning by former President Bill Clinton, a former governor of Arkansas, is paying off for Lincoln.
"Public opinion is moving a little in her favor," said Clark. "She's seen in a more positive light. It's not translating yet into real success at the ballot box. But it does intrigue me because we've got a ways to go until the election."
The poll found that 18 percent of registered Arkansas voters believe Clinton's campaigning for Lincoln has made them more likely to vote for her. On the other hand, 22 percent said it made them less likely to vote for her, and 59 percent said it made no difference.
While Lincoln struggles, Arkansas' Democratic governor, Mike Beebe, is coasting toward re-election, holding a 55 percent to 37 percent lead over Republican candidate Jim Keet.
Arkansas, with an economy heavy reliant on farming, has weathered the U.S. recession better than some states, providing some benefit to Beebe. Still, the poll found the economy is still the biggest problem facing the state, cited by 57 percent of respondents.
Between September 17 and 19, Ipsos interviewed 600 Arkansas registered voters, 436 of whom said they are likely to vote on November 2. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for registered voters and 4.7 points for likely voters.