Candidate Profile from Congressional QuarterlyBlanche Lambert Lincoln (D) of Hughes
When Senate Republicans cast about for Democratic support on major legislation, they may well turn to Lincoln, a moderate Democrat whose farm roots bring her close to GOP positions on several issues.
But at the same time, President Clinton is likely to view his fellow Arkansas Democrat as an important new senatorial ally, especially if he is threatened with impeachment and removal from office.
The resulting tug between her instincts and her political allies will be a familiar one for Lincoln, who was often a crucial swing vote when she served two terms in the House, from 1993 to 1997 ÷ and voted only two out of every three times with the president. The average House Democratic support score was closer to 75 percent.
During her first term, when the Democrats were in control of the House, Lincoln won a seat on what then was called the Energy and Commerce Committee. There she often worked to try and forge compromises between Democrats and Republicans on key issues such as health care reform, overhaul of the superfund toxic-waste cleanup law and revisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
During her second term, Lincoln sometimes joined the then-new Republican majority on social and fiscal issues; she supported a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution and tax cuts, and she supported legislation that would have banned a procedure labeled by its opponents "partial-birth" abortion.
Her activism trailed off in 1996, however, when she became pregnant with twins and decided not to seek reelection.
Yet, when Democratic Sen. Dale Bumpers announced that he would not seek a fifth term, Lincoln jumped at the opportunity to reenter politics in a state that, while staunchly Democratic in the past, elected a Republican senator in 1996. During her campaign, Lincoln scripted a political narrative around her family life, saying that she reentered politics to make the nation better for her children. She focused on educational issues as well as using the federal budget surplus to shore up Social Security and Medicare.
She had to overcome significant opposition within her own party. Labor unions supported her primary opponents because Lincoln had voted against legislation that would ban employers from permanently replacing striking workers and because she had supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals.
After winning 46 percent of the vote in the first primary, Lincoln managed to capture 63 percent of the vote in a runoff, despite the AFL-CIO endorsement of her opponent, Winston Bryant.