ON THE TRAIL: Clarke Tucker's endorsement by Rep. John Lewis didn't disturb incumbent Rep. French Hill.

CNN’s Dan Merica has taken a long look at the race for 2nd District Congress, with a focus on distance being put between Democrat Clarke Tucker and Republican incumbent French Hill and two presidents, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively.

Merica, who came to town for Rep. John Lewis’ appearance for Tucker, devotes more time to the absence of Clintons in Tucker’s race and the candidate’s own statement that the Clintons are part of history and not engaged in the fight for Arkansas’s future.

Far more relevant, it seems to me, is where French Hill stands on Donald Trump, who every day does things that impacts Arkansas lives. Hill and his Republican colleagues have done little to discourage his worst impulses.

Asked what he wold tell Trump if the president offered to rally for him in Arkansas, Hill was blunt as he enjoyed coffee at a local Waffle House: How about Pence?

“I’d say I’m going to invite the Vice President (Mike Pence),” Hill said he would tell the President. “I think the Vice President is somebody who I think fits the personality of this district.”

Possibly realizing what he was saying, Hill added, “President Trump fits a big part of it, too, but I just think the VP is somebody who embodies sort of the economic message, the national security message, the faith message, all of which I hear about when I am in this district.”

You could argue that Hill’s unwillingness to stand up to Trump is overshadowed by his flowery tribute to Pence, a dangerous demagogue of limited intelligence who was headed to defeat in a race in Indiana when Trump put him on the national ticket. He’s a devoted supporter of discrimination against LGBT people, among other disqualifications as a man of “faith.” But I guess Hill thinks gay bashing is good politics, too. He may be right in parts of the Second District.

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Then there’s the black vote, which the CNN reporter says is viewed as important by both candidates. What this really means is that black TURNOUT is important. I had to laugh at French Hill’s quote about his black voter outreach

“I compete for all the votes,” Hill said. “With that said, I don’t win a large percentage of the African American vote. I work for it. I try to earn it. And I will continue to try to do that.”

He added: “I think I have taken the steps… to make the case to African American voters that they should diversify their political participation and they should support Republican candidates who are working for the community, the entire community.”

Let’s see. Hill wants to end the Affordable Care Act. The poor community isn’t getting much work from him. He supports sexual discrimination. So there went the LGBT community. He opposes women’s medical rights. So there went a majority of women voters. He hasn’t stood up to Trump’s racist attacks on blacks and immigrants. So that’s another part of the community he’s not working for. Just who is he working for? Well there are investment bankers. And bigots.

And the black voter isn’t stupid. In 2016, it voted overwhelmingly for Hill’s opponent.

One example: Greater Archview Baptist Church, a predominantly black neighborhood.

Dianne Curry 843

French Hill 95

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Hill’s 9 percent is, admittedly, better than Trump is currently doing with black voters — 3 percent in recent ABC poll.

Hill again dismissed John Lewis’ value as a draw for voters. At least this time he didn’t employ the word “foolish” about the living legend.

All that said, I think the CNN reporter’s take on the race missed THE key element in a potential upset for Tucker: Are there any swing voters in the suburban counties that he can reach with his moderate message heavy on health care. Or are Saline, Faulkner, White, and others irredeemably — and enthusiastically — committed to anyone with an R, no matter how little Trump’s policies are helping working people?