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I've been dubious about polls showing Joyce Elliott, the liberal Democratic lion, essentially in a tie with French Hill, the loyal Trumpian in a congressional district widely understood to adore Trump outside Little Rock.

But Hill's desperation is about to make a believer of me.

All I can figure is that Hill's natural 55-45 advantage, give or take, is being put under stress by his aiding and abetting Donald Trump's growing atrocity, an expected heavy Democratic vote in Pulaski County, and modest but troubling defection from reliable Republicanism among seniors and suburban women.

Hill's response is to try to rouse uninformed conservative voters in suburban and rural sections of his 2nd District into fearing or deploring Elliott, and turning out in good enough numbers to let him stay in Congress in case Trump makes it to a second term and needs help ruining health care.

This latest is an attack television ad in which Hill permits his image saying he approved the message. That's different from the tightly targeted Facebook ads he has run doctoring and misrepresenting a photograph of Elliott. The altered image is designed to leave the misimpression that she is an anti-police street protester wanting to defund the police.

And it's different from the smear by an outside super-PAC that recently came into the state to air an attack ad keeping Hill at arm's length saying Elliott would do away with police protection.

Now this latest TV spot, unveiled over the weekend, runs unattractive pictures of convicted felon Rusty Cranford, a lobbyist who pleaded guilty to bribing a few Arkansas legislators in representing a behavioral health provider.

Elliott merely accepted a legal campaign contribution from the guy, like several other state legislators, and used the regrettably legal General Improvement Fund to help direct money to a reputable behavioral health counseling service related to a Cranford client.

She was not one of the criminally complicit. But, you know, speaking of that sad chapter, that Jeremy Hutchinson, nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, was.

So if it's guilt by association that Hill wants to apply, he probably ought to answer for the endorsement commercial he is running featuring Asa, who is associated with Jeremy in a blood way.

Let me hastily make clear that my point is purely rhetorical. The governor is not implicated or remotely complicit in the crimes of his nephew, just as Elliott is not legitimately implicated or remotely complicit in an extortion scheme in which a few of her colleagues--both Republicans and Democrats--disgraced themselves.

In this context, crime by a public servant is taking extra money personally from private persons seeking public favor. In exchange for that extra money, the crime is working beyond normal legislating to get public money or government favor directed to the person providing the extra money.

Elliott didn't do any of that. She got a reported campaign contribution and helped direct a legal appropriation.

It's true that we've had systemic corruption in the state Legislature. But to say all legislators are personally corrupt in a systemically corrupt legislature is as bogus and unfair as saying there are no good cops in a systemically racist police department.

The GIF money Elliott used was itself a systemic scandal until recently stopped. All legislators were given shares of state surplus funds to direct as they pleased. But taking your share and giving it to a service agency you find worthy amounts to absurdly dissipated policymaking but not a personal scandal in itself.

Not all that is systemically rotten is personally rotten.

But to smear Elliott with the criminality of other legislators taking outright bribes is a rotten way to argue that you should stay in Congress.

Surely it's obvious to Hill that the campaign advertising in his behalf has been a mess.

His first TV spot attacked Elliott for voting for cell-phone fees and asked if there wasn't anything she wouldn't tax. The fees were to shore up underfunded 911 service and supported by the Republican governor and most Republican legislators.

Then the outside super-PAC came in to accuse Elliott of wanting to leave us with no one to call when marauders loomed and we needed that same 911 service.

Elliott essentially stood accused of shoring up 911 service so that years later she could pull the plug to invite riotous protesters to take over Saline County.

Of course, none of that makes any sense. But it's not supposed to make sense. It's only supposed to rile

anger-prone and fear-prone right-

wingers.

With the electorate deeply polarized, you don't mind the opposing side knowing the nonsense of what you're telling the most gullible on your side.

I'm betting that the frightened Hill will keep throwing wild punches until a few easy marks get the wrong idea that his punches actually land and pack a wallop.

--ā€“ā€“ā€“ā€“ā€“vā€“ā€“ā€“ā€“ā€“--

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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