President Obama isn't bothered by a new ad from Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), in which the senator touts her independence from the Democratic Party and states her opposition to key Democratic policies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters just hours after Lincoln's first ad went on the air, Gibbs stressed that the president continues to "support" the Arkansas Democrat in her primary fight, even if she is now attacking parts of his agenda. In her ad, Lincoln touted her work fighting against cap-and-trade legislation and a public option for insurance coverage as illustrations of her independence.
"The president supports Senator Lincoln who is an incumbent member of the Senate and understands, even as he is the head of the Democratic Party, that not every Democrat is going to agree with him on every issue," Gibbs said. "And he is not going to agree with every other Democrat on their views. He believes that Senator Lincoln is serving her state well and believes she should be returned for an additional term."
Below is Lincoln's ad:
As Gibbs reiterated the White House's continued backing of the embattled senator, another major Democratic pol also came to her side. Former President Bill Clinton, a native of Arkansas, confirmed through a spokesperson that his decision to endorse Lincoln several months ago still stands. The news was first reported by Greg Sargent and confirmed by spokesperson Matt McKenna to the Huffington Post.
Having presidential heavyweights in your corner surely helps during a heated election. But Lincoln's new ad has left a slew of Democratic strategists completely baffled. "This will actually hurt her in a primary," said one party operative with experience in Arkansas, who said the spot seemed more appropriate for a general election. "Again, it looks like her campaign has been caught flat-footed."
One Democratic official went so far as to predict that Lincoln's challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, would end up using the ad to his advantage because of how critical it is of everyday Democratic priorities. And, indeed, hours after the spot went up, the Halter campaign was out with a response, pointing out that Lincoln had in fact voted for the bank bailout and was taking money from the "special interests" that she claimed to be fighting against.
"The kids [featured in the ad] are cute," said spokesman Bob Jackson. "It's a shame she's using them to hide her record. "The good news is, if those kids are actually from Arkansas they can now qualify for a $5,000 scholarship because of Lieutenant Governor Halter's work with the legislature to pass the Scholarship Lottery."