Would he or wouldn’t he? With Arkansas’s First, Third and Fourth Congressional Districts overwhelmingly and, judging by the polls, happily Red, would he become the best chance Democrats have this year to send one of their own to Washington? In the one district with an incumbent who failed to hit the 60 percent mark while his three House colleagues each won by no less than 75 percent?


Clarke Tucker would. After weighing the possibilities for months, going back-and-forth about his prospects, Tucker announced on Feb. 5 that he would attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. French Hill, becoming the third Democrat to formally commit to the race and, immediately, the front-runner in the May 22 primary.


Gwen Combs of Little Rock and Paul Spencer of Scott, both teachers, had entered the field weeks earlier, each hoping Tucker (among others) would opt out. Each is a relative unknown although Combs has a high profile among Arkansas womens’ advocates. Largely through Internet appeals Spencer had raised about $130,000, according to the latest required campaign finance reports, while Combs recorded $10,000 — barely the filing fee in a race that, by the November general election, will require seven figure sums. Hill spent $1.6 million two years ago against a primary nonentity and a sacrificial Democrat, and as of January had almost that amount in his treasury. His next statement will reflect an even more robust balance, with yet millions more available should the GOP hierarchy decide Hill’s seat is in peril. Thus far the national Republican establishment believes Hill is secure, as do the best known of the non-partisan handicappers.


Tucker is 37, a married father of two, a cancer survivor serving his second term in the state House of Representatives from a left-leaning district in Little Rock. As a scion of a prominent and prosperous family, as a Harvard graduate and UA-schooled attorney, Tucker is hardly an Arkansas Everyman but he is Every Arkansas Democrat seeking office in a time of Republican dominance, in the Hour of Trump. As such, they must court an electorate that mostly is still (a) relieved to be rid of the Barack Obama it would not abide and (b) thus far generally accepting of the unending boorishness and frightening ignorance of his successor. So it would be easier for his opponent to tie him to Obama than for Tucker (or any Democratic nominee) to hang Mr. Trump around Hill’s neck, the latter tactic unadvisable — not enough rope, at least not yet.


Tucker’s strategy presents as both necessary and self-evident. First, win Pulaski, the largest of the district’s seven counties, which Hill has never carried; then slice into the stunning margins the incumbent twice now has amassed elsewhere. The former will be easier to accomplish than the latter.


Yes, Hill lost Pulaski in both his previous campaigns — but not by crushing margins; two years ago he fell only 2,000 votes short there and ran 11 points ahead of Donald Trump, who lost the county to Hillary Clinton. (She ran six points better than Mr. Trump in the whole of the Second District). Yes, Tucker can expect to do better in Pulaski, far better. And he had better — for Pulaski will not, cannot, tell the tale this fall. It isn’t big enough, isn’t blue enough.


No, Hill’s political base is not his home turf but the district’s half-dozen other counties, each far more Red than Pulaski is Blue, which have embraced him with gusto. That 2,000 vote loss in Pulaski County? Next door, Saline gave Hill 37,000 of its 49,000 votes, a 76 percent win. Of the next two most populous counties Hill scored 70 percent in Faulkner and took eight of every ten votes in White. Even in Conway County, once a storied Democratic citadel, Hill captured 66 percent. Excise Pulaski County from the Second District and Hill’s margin was 75 percent.


Neither Tucker nor any other Democrat is likely to attract the financial support that is Hill’s for the asking, which means the challenger will have to score seriously on issues, avoiding whenever possible (it is never even nearly possible) social and cultural questions (abortion, gay rights) and concentrating on pocketbook matters: health care (yes, “Obamacare,” which he has helped preserve in Arkansas, with the blessing of a Republican governor), infrastructure, education, wage equity.


In that regard, how well can Tucker “talk Arkansas” in an Arkansas still enamored of Mr. Trump? Can he relate effectively not only to white working class and farm voters but to women? To exurbanite professionals? And, at the same time, to what extent can he boost turnout by African-American voters? In an age driven by social media Tucker could face a bruising primary even if most of the money is in his corner.