Recent polling showed President Donald Trump with an unexpectedly poor showing in Arkansas.
The president drew a 50 percent disapproval rating and ran barely ahead of Democrat Joe Biden, according to polling from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College.
Keep in mind that Arkansas showed its red-state reliability in 2016, giving Republican Trump a solid 60 percent of the vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
His margin would likely have been even greater back then, had Clinton not had deep ties to the state. She was Arkansas' first lady before she was the nation's, serving in that role long before she was U.S. senator from New York or secretary of state.
Yet, Trump trounced her in Arkansas in their 2016 matchup.
That was then. This is now.
Check out the poll numbers:
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Donald Trump is doing as president?
Significantly, self-identified independent voters in Arkansas disapproved of Trump's performance by a 39-54 percent margin while Democrats and Republicans predictably aligned against or for Trump (99 percent of Democrats disapproved and 90 percent of Republicans approved of the job Trump is doing).
More surprising was the response to another question.
Q: If the election for president were being held today, which candidate would you support?
47% Donald J. Trump
45% Joseph R. Biden
5% Another candidate
Trump led but by only 2 percent in a poll with a margin of error of +/-3.3 percent.
Seriously. In Arkansas.
This recent poll, conducted June 9 and 10 of 869 likely voters statewide, may be an outlier. Or it might be predictive of shifting sentiment in ruby-red Arkansas about Trump and how he's handled the presidency.
Notably, Biden led with women (50 percent to Trump's 42 percent) and independents (46 percent to 40 percent. Trump led with men (53 percent to Biden's 40 percent).
A more detailed breakdown is available online at independents https://talkbusiness.net/2020/06/poll-independents
The same poll, incidentally, gave Arkansas' junior U.S. senator, Republican Tom Cotton, an unfavorable rating as well. Forty-seven percent disapproved of the job Cotton is doing while 44 percent approved. Nine percent were unsure.
Cotton is up for re-election this year but faces no Democrat. Josh Mahony had filed for the Democratic nomination but abruptly dropped out just after the filing period ended. Cotton's only opposition right now is Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington, Jr. Independent Dan Whitfield is trying to qualify for the ballot.
The politician who fared best in the poll was Gov. Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican. Respondents approved the governor's job performance by a 62 percent to 19 percent margin.
He is in the middle of his final term as governor and not on the November ballot.
Like any other poll, this one is a snapshot in time. The chance that Trump really could lose Arkansas in the presidential election seems highly unlikely.
The election is still months away and Trump has proven time and again that he can hold onto his base, which has included many Arkansas voters.
In his analysis of the poll results, Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, noted that the poll he helped craft was taken during a period of turmoil that included the covid-19 crisis, the resulting recession and social conflict following the police killing of George Floyd, the black man who died with a white Minneapolis policeman's knee on his neck.
"While the state's electoral history suggests that it ultimately will not be closely fought in the fall, Arkansans are split at this troubled moment for the Trump presidency," wrote Barth.
He was hardly the only one to suggest the findings of the poll were tied to the president's handling of the multiple challenges Trump has faced in recent months.
And that was before the president went to Tulsa last weekend for that mess of a political rally, which was intended to boost his spirits even as it risked the health of everyone there.
That was not the restart Trump envisioned for his campaign nor is it likely to be the last of his troubles in this re-election bid.