It’s not just Florida where Democrats will be playing a cynical game of trickle-down politics come November. Just as Sunshine State Democrats are counting on Amendment 2, the referendum on medical marijuana, to increase turnout among the otherwise disinterested, thereby boosting their party’s chances on Election Day (nice base they’ve got there, by the way), so Arkansas Democrats are hoping for a similar bump among the otherwise lackadaisical by putting a minimum wage increase on the ballot.
Desperate is as desperate does, one supposes.
The Arkansas maneuver caught the attention of Washington Post Plum Line blogger Greg Sargent, who detects in the gambit a sliver of sunlight in pursuit of keeping the U.S. Senate in Democratic hands.
Arkansas, goes the thinking, is Ground Zero for Republicans hoping to take control of the Senate and boot the execrable Harry Reid from the office of Majority Leader. The GOP has a sharp, attractive candidate in Harvard law grad and Army veteran Tom Cotton in a deep red state, but incumbent Mark Pryor is a living heirloom, an Arkansas blue-blood politician (he practically inherited the seat from his dad) in a portion of the Old Confederacy that recalls with a lingering fondness what it meant to be a Yellow Dog Democrat.
Beat Pryor, goes the thinking, and November portends yet another midterm wave election for the GOP, one that President Obama has told supporters would make his last two years in the White House unbearable. Small wonder Democrats are pulling every conceivable stop to help Pryor hold the line in a state where Obama lost to Mitt Romney by 24 points, and whose favorability rating would have to surge to crack 30.
Nonetheless, recent polls show Cotton and Pryor in a dead heat, with nearly one-third of the electorate undecided.
Pryor has already signaled he will campaign on the issue — the initiative would hike the minimum wage from $6.25 [sic] to $8.50 by 2017 — and his campaign tells me he’ll emphasize it to sharpen the contrast with GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, his opponent.
“Mark was the first statewide official to endorse this effort, and he’ll continue to support it,” Pryor deputy campaign manager Erik Dorey tells me. “Mark sees how important this is for working families in Arkansas, unlike our opponent, who has been silent on this issue. This is an important contrast with our opponent.”
In other words, in hopes of saving himself and Reid, Pryor will support a measure that economists and history have demonstrated affects negatively the job prospects of exactly those ill-informed voters whose primary motivation to rise from the couch will be to vote themselves deeper into The Man’s pocket. Never mind the real minimum wage: $0.00.
Jennifer Duffy, who tracks Senate races for the Cook Political Report, says that’s a reasonable possibility.
“It’s important,” Duffy says. “One way Democrats hope to get their base out is by putting ballot initiatives in states with tough races, to give people a reason to vote.” Duffy added the minimum wage on the ballot could boost turnout among working class women and African Americans.
Dem strategists are looking at the minimum wage as a way to draw out members of the Rising American Electorate (unmarried and downscale women, minorities, young voters) in multiple races, by giving them something to vote for. As Celinda Lake puts it: “This is a great way to frame a race. It gives voters a way to say, ‘Just tell me whether you’re for or against this.’ ”
That’s electoral politics in America 2014. Charlie Crist counts on a stoner surge in Florida; Mark Pryor relies on the uninvolved, unskilled and inexperienced. If those strategies succeed, it’ll prove the Obama White House — apparently doubting we’ll remember past Independence Day the appalling swap of five Taliban thugs for an apparent Army deserter — still knows us better than we know ourselves.