50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 25. Arkansas

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

25. Arkansas

Capital: Little Rock

Nickname: The Natural State

Motto: Regnat Populus

(The People Rule)

About the State

Prior to the arrival of settlers from Europe, Arkansas was home to Native Americans from the Quapaw, Caddo and Osage tribes.  It was part of the Louisiana Territory claimed by the French, who then ceded it to the Spanish under the Treaty of  Fontainebleau to secure their support in the Seven Years’ War against the British.  Napoleon won the entire colony back from Spain in 1800 and it was part of the land he agreed to sell to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.  It was then organised under the Missouri Territory, later becoming the Arkansaw Territory when Missouri applied for statehood in 1819.

In 1818, the Quapaw tribe signed a treaty with the Americans, giving up their hunting lands in exchange for keeping 32 million acres of land in the south of the Territory, along the Arkansas River.  However, the settlers reneged on that deal and left the Quapaw with just a million acres and, by 1833, had forced the entire tribe to move to Oklahoma.  The other Native Americans nations were also forced out of the area: the Caddo were disgruntled at the arrival of the Cherokee, who had been pushed west out of Georgia and South Carolina and the tribes went to war; while the Osage signed an agreement in 1825 to leave Arkansas, moving to Kansas first, then Oklahoma.

In June of 1836, Arkansas became the 25th state in the USA – the 13th in which slavery was accepted – before seceding in 1861 and joining the Confederacy during the Civil War.  There were more than 750 military engagements in Arkansas during the conflict and both sides recognised the state’s strategic importance due to its position on the Mississippi River.  One of the most respected Generals of the Confederate Army, Patrick Cleburne, was a native of Arkansas – as was David Owen Dodd, a 17-year-old who was caught with a notebook containing information of Union troop deployment in Little Rock written in morse code.  Dodd was convicted and hanged as a spy for the south and is now called “Boy Martyr of the Confederacy”, for his refusal to reveal the source of the information he had been carrying.

In 1957, one of the most pivotal events on the Civil Rights Movement occurred in Arkansas, when 9 African-American children attempted to enroll at Central High School, in Little Rock, after the board had voted to allow integration following the Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court decision of 1954.  There were protests by white people in the town and Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard to support those who were trying to maintain segregation.  Upon seeing the images on television, President Eisenhower deployed the 101st Airborne of the United States Army to enforce the integration and protect the Little Rock Nine.  The students faced verbal and physical abuse for their first year at Central High, but their courage signified huge progress for the Civil Rights Movement and they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest civilian award that Congress can bestow.

Arkansas is the 29th biggest state in area and, with just over 2.9 million residents, it ranks 32nd in population.  Its economy is based around agriculture – its main outputs being poultry, soybeans and cotton – food processing and the mining of natural gas and oil.  The state also has the only diamond mine in the USA and the retailer Wal-Mart was started in Bentonville, Arkansas and is now the biggest private employer in the United States.  The state also attracts tourists to Hot Springs – a spa town – and game fisherman, due to its more than 600,000 acres of lakes and 9,700 miles of streams and rivers.   Arkansas was the birthplace of President Bill Clinton, who was also elected Governor of the state in 1978 at the age of 32, lost the 1980 ballot, but served for a further 10 years between 1982 and 1992.  During the Texas Revolution, militia from Arkansas assisted the Texans across the border in their fight for independence from Mexico.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 6

2008 Result: McCain 58.8% Obama 38.8%

Latest Poll: Romney +21%

The only two Democrats in the last 40 years to have won Arkansas in a Presidential election were southerners: Jimmy Carter, who hailed from Georgia; and the state’s native son, Bill Clinton.  With a healthy lead in the polls there, Governor Romney looks a certainty to win its 6 Electoral College Votes this November.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There are no Senate elections in Arkansas this November.  The state has 4 members in the House of Representatives and the current delegation is made up of 1 Democrat and 3 Republicans.  After re-disctricting, the seat held by the Democratic Party is likely to be lost to the GOP in this year’s election.

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