LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Lt. Gov. Bill Halter has become the biggest immediate threat to Sen. Blanche Lincoln's bid for a third term as he challenges her in the Democratic primary. His rise in four years from a long-shot gubernatorial hopeful to a candidate in one of the nation's most closely watched Senate contests has earned him plenty of enemies along the way.

Democratic legislators tried to slash his office's budget last month and a veteran congressman said Halter's Senate run is "probably ... the end of his political career."

The comments demonstrate the challenge Halter faces. But they also show the disconnect between conservative Democrats in a state like Arkansas and liberal activists hoping for a change. But instead of distancing himself from the chilly relationship, Halter and his allies embrace it so he can claim to be an outsider in an anti-Washington climate.

Gov. Mike Beebe has said he won't endorse anyone in the primary, but Lincoln has the support of the state's top elected Democrats and former President Bill Clinton.