Long the domain of the Dixiecrat -- conservative Democrats from the South -- Arkansas has maintained its Democratic leanings despite a strong surge of Republican support from the mountainous regions and the northwest parts of the state. Despite the GOP's growing base of voters, both U.S. senators and three out of four House members are still Democrats.
Arkansas is also a bellwether for presidential politics, twice voting for
state's native son and former governor, Bill Clinton, in 1992
and 1996 and twice for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
This year, Arkansas' competitive race for governor features two well-known officials: former Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson and state Attorney General Mike Beebe as the Democratic contender.
Both candidates have tapped into social issues for their campaign platforms, Hutchinson with a four-point immigration proposal and Beebe with a 12-point health care plan.
Arkansas, settled by poor farmers, now has a total population of about 2.67 million, and its growth is concentrated in the northwest corner of the state in Little Rock and in counties along the interstate highways.
The state is not known for any specific industries or natural resources -- although it produces half the world's supply of flame-retarding bromine -- but has several manufacturing specialties in food processing, aerospace, auto parts, and medical and construction equipment, the Almanac says.
And the $165 million William J. Clinton Presidential Center, the largest presidential library, is expected to bring in a steady stream of tourists.
Because the economy is not pegged to specific industries, the state provides a fertile ground for kernels of ideas to grow into huge business successes. For instance, Sam Walton bought his first Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Ark.
Walton used his business blueprint of buying wholesale goods, passing on savings to customers and negotiating lower purchase prices from manufacturers to build the first Wal-Mart -- also in Arkansas -- which would eventually become the world's largest retail chain.
The state prides itself in supporting family values and traditions, and the two candidates for governor may find themselves appealing to this area in order to win.