Can’t Have a Primary Without a Candidate

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Jon Chait doesn’t get the logic of all the effort that’s going into primarying Blanche Lincoln:

I don’t quite get why Lincoln is facing a primary challenger at all. I understand the general principle of fielding primary challengers to force Democrats to accept some political risk for the sake of enacting progressive policies. I just don’t get why Lincoln is the target. I’m not an enormous fan of hers — I’m fairly proud of my 2006 column ridiculing her incoherent views on fiscal policy — but she does indeed hail from a very conservative state.

I don’t think this is that hard to understand. To mount a challenge from the left, you really need two things. One is you need progressive activists and institutions ready to back the challenger. And the other is that you need a challenger. And what Arkansas has is a solid challenger in the form of an incumbent Lieutenant Governor—exactly the sort of person who would beat a sitting Senator. It’s definitely true that in the abstract Lincoln is far from the worst offender in terms of being less progressive than her constituency could withstand. But of the more conservative Democrats, she’s the one who also has a rival politician eager to gamble on a primary challenge to an incumbent.