60: The final vote needed for the passage of Obamacare belonged to mark Pryor.
10 (George W. Bush), 20 (John McCain), 24 (Mitt Romney): The increasing margins of victory by Republican Presidential Candidates.
20: The number of points former Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln lost re-election in 2010. And she was more conservative and more popular than Mark Pryor.
100%: The number of Congressional seats held by the GOP after holding just 25% before 2010.
41.8%: Mark Pryor’s poll average throughout 2013 vs Tom Cotton. Ouch for an incumbent…
0%: 2012 Ratings from Gun Owners of America and the National Right to Life Committee.
2: Number of Deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan by Tom Cotton who joined the Army after 9/11.
2: Number of “Deployments” to Washington D.C. by Mark Pryor who joined the US Senate after 9/11.
0%: Ratings from the socially conservative groups the Christian Coalition and Family Research Center despite releasing his first odd political ad of the 2014 season where he is holding a Bible and calling it is “compass” to do “what’s best for Arkansans.” Like Obamacare. And Abortions. And Gun Bans. And Higher Taxes.
Your move, Arkansas.
The Republicans need to net 6 seats to win back the US Senate in 2014. To do so, winning deep red states such as Arkansas is a must. Will this be the end of the road for Democrat Mark Pryor after casting the deciding vote for Obamacare?
What’s the political landscape in Arkansas like? Coming into the 2010 election, Democrat Blanche Lincoln had a pair of double-digit victories over Republicans. She won by 11 points in 1998 and then 13 points in 2004. She was one of the Democrats “blue dog” Democrats – a Democrat who claims to be “conservative” but is a reliable left-wing vote when needed. Lincoln was even a co-founder of the Blue Dog Democratic Caucus. But one vote for Obamacare later, and Lincoln was crushed by 21 points in the 2010 Tea Party wave. If Lincoln fell so easily in 2010, will an even less popular Democrat have much of a shot in a year where the law is now falling apart in front of the country?
The Democratic Incumbent
Mark Pryor first won a single-digit election to the US Senate in 2002 thanks in part to a Republican opponent weakened by marital woes. He won in 2008 as the Republicans inexplicably failed to even field a candidate in one of the reddest states. But in 2010, Pryor became the deciding vote seeing through the passage of Obamacare. And unlike Blanche Lincoln ahead of 2010, Pryor has never been all that popular with voters and has a solidly liberal voting record. He is pro-abortion, anti-gun, and fiscally liberal. All this cements his status as a top pick-up opportunity for Republicans.
The Republican Challenger
US Representative Tom Cotton is the only announced candidate as of the end of 2013, and he is widely expected to be the GOP’s nominee. A December, 2013 poll found that 39% of Arkansans had a favorable view of Cotton to just 26% with an unfavorable view. (Pryor was slightly above water at 44-39%). Cotton is a former Captain in the US Army who was deployed of Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and later to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2012, Cotton turned a Democratic seat to the Republicans with a margin of more than 20 points.
Cotton will likely have strong support from both the Tea Party and Establishment wings of the Republican Party. Allen West, Marco Rubio, and the Club for Growth are all early supporters. Meanwhile, Arkansas is getting more Republican by the year. In 2004, George W. Bush won that state by 10 points. McCain won it by 20 in 2008, and Romney by 24 points in 2012. Democrats had also held 3 of the 4 congressional seats throughout the George W. Bush Presidency. The GOP now holds all four seats.
Two December 2013 polls both had good news for Tom Cotton. A poll commissioned by Citizens United (R) gave Cotton a 48-41% lead even with much lower name recognition. A second poll for a liberal interest group saw the race tied at 44-44%, but had a much higher partisan sample gap (Democrats +10) than what has been seen in recent years (in 2010, the gap was half that). Partisan polls are always to be looked at with a skeptical eye, but if a partisan poll shows their incumbent tied, it usually means trouble. The worst indicator for Pryor is his 41.8% poll average of the 13 main polls done in 2013. That’s an ominous number for a US Senator running for a third term. President Obama and Obamacare have bottom-of-the-barrel approval ratings, and we expect a barrage of Obamacare ads from conservative groups. Tom Cotton is a solid Republican candidate, one who could potentially pull away from Pryor early in the year.
A secondary advantage for Cotton is that he will have no shortage of outside name support and big names willing to help. Rubio, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Ted Cruz could all easily fly into Arkansas to lend a hand and rev up the vote. With “conservatives” becoming near-extinct in the Democratic Party, and all other names strongly associated with Obamacare, Pryor will be mostly on his own. Perhaps former Arkansan and 2016 Hillary Clinton will come to lend a hand? I’m sure that would help.