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Four southern U.S. Senate races are still too close to call

GOP holding leads in Arkansas and West Virginia; Democrats holding tough in Georgia and Kentucky

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern-states-lgWASHINGTON (CFP) — Two weeks out from election day, races for four southern U.S. Senate seats — two held by each party — are still too close to call, with control of the Senate hanging in the balance.

The latest polling shows races in North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia are within the margin of error, while the race in Louisiana now seems certain to be heading toward a December runoff.

Depending on how these Southern races turn out, the question of which party will control the Senate could linger for more than a month before runoffs in Louisiana and possibly Georgia.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

However, Republicans appear poised to pick up an open Democratic seat in West Virginia, and GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton appears to have opened up a small lead over incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor in Arkansas.

Democrats hold only eight out of 28 southern Senate seats. One of those seats, in West Virginia, is likely gone, and three others — in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — are in jeopardy.

The good news for Democrats is that two GOP-held seats, in Kentucky and Georgia, have turned out to be surprisingly competitive, despite the Republican tilt in both of those states.

Here are the current states of the southern Senate races:

Arkansas: The race between Cotton and Pryor has been neck-and-neck for the better part of a year, as outside groups poured tons of money into the Natural
State. But a Talk Business and Politics/Hendrix College poll released October 15 showed that Cotton has opened up an 8-point lead, the third media poll in a row that put the challenger ahead.

Louisiana: Recent polling shows Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her chief Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, about even but both far from the 50 percent either would need to avoid a runoff in the state’s jungle primary, where all candidates from all parties run in the same race. That would set up a December 6 runoff between the two, a head-to-head match-up that’s still too close to call.

West Virginia: This race is to pick a successor to retiring Democratic U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, and it looks increasingly like a GOP pickup, with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito opening up a significant lead over Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. A CBS News/New York Times/YouGov poll in early October had Capito ahead by 23 points.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Kentucky: The Senate’s top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is in a pitched battle with Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Recent polls have shown the race as either too close to call or with McConnell slightly in the lead.

Georgia: This race, to pick a successor to retiring Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, is a contest between two political newcomers, Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn. Despite Georgia’ GOP tilt, Nunn has run a strong race, and the latest polling shows the contest within the margin of error. An interesting twist in Georgia is that if neither Perdue nor Nunn wins a majority, they would meet in a runoff December 10 — a possibility if the race is close and votes are syphoned off by third-party candidates.

North Carolina: Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan is seeking a second term against Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis. Recent polling has shown this race is also within the margin of error.

Polls: GOP opens up leads in U.S. Senate races in Arkansas and Kentucky

New NBC polling shows U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ahead

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states ttankWASHINGTON (CFP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidates in Arkansas and Kentucky have opened up small leads over their Democratic opponents. according to new polling, which could be good news for the GOP’s chances to wrest control of the Senate from Democratic hands.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

The NBC News/Marist polls, released September 7, showed Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton at 45 percent among likely voters in Arkansas, compared to incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor at 40 percent. Cotton’s lead was beyond the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had an even bigger lead over his opponent, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Among likely voters, McConnell was the choice of 47 percent, compared to 39 percent for Grimes. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Previous public polling had both of these races as toss-ups.

Part of what may be fueling the stronger showing by Republican candidates is President Barack Obama’s abysmal approval rating in both states.

In Arkansas, 61 percent of registered voters disapproved of the president’s performance, while only 31 percent approved. And more than 70 percent of Arkansans said the country was on the wrong track.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

In Kentucky, Obama’s approval ratings were even worse, with 62 percent disapproving and just 31 percent approving. And nearly three-quarters of Kentuckians thought the country was on the wrong track.

The NBC/Marist poll also took at look at the open governor’s race in Arkansas. It showed that Republican Asa Hutchinson at 48 percent and Democrat Mike Ross at 39 percent, well beyond the margin of error.

Both Hutchinson and Ross are former members of the U.S. House. Incumbent Democratic Governor Mike Beebe is term-limited.

Poll: Arkansas U.S. Senate race is still a dead heat

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton’s slight lead over U.S. Senator Mark Pryor is within the margin of error

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK (CFP) — Less than four months before election day, a new poll in the U.S. Senate race in Arkansas shows a statistical toss-up between Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor and his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

The Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College poll of 1,780 likely voters showed Cotton with 44 percent support, compared to 42 percent for Pryor. That was within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

The latest poll showed a slight shift from April, when Pryor held a 3-point advantage over Cotton. But the race still remains a toss-up, despite a deluge of negative television ads aired by both campaigns and their allied outside groups.

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor

Cotton partisans have hit Pryor for his ties to President Barack Obama, particularly his vote in favor of Obamacare. Pryor and his advocates have hit Cotton as being a tool of outside billionaires and out of touch with Arkansas voters, highlighting his votes against the federal farm bill and disaster relief.

In the latest poll, Cotton held a nearly 17-point margin over Pryor among independent voters. But Pryor held a 5-point lead among female voters and a whopping 57-point lead among African-Americans, who make up about 16 percent of Arkansas’s population.

Poll: Arkansas Senate race between Pryor and Cotton remains a dead heat

New poll shows Pryor with a slight lead that’s within the margin of error

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK (CFP) — Despite a deluge of negative television ads aired by both sides, a new poll shows the U.S. Senate race in Arkansas remains a statistical dead heat seven months out from the November election.

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor

The Talk Business Hendrix College poll puts Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor’s support at 45.5 percent, compared to 42.5 percent for his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton. The remaining 12 percent are undecided or for minor candidates.

The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points, which makes the race between Pryor and Cotton a statistical dead heat.

In that same poll in October, Pryor had 42 percent and Cotton 41 percent, which was also within the margin of error.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

This latest poll of 1,068 frequent Arkansas voters was taken April 3 and 4, amid a wave of negative ads from outside groups against both candidates.

Cotton is being criticized him for his work as a corporate consultant before getting into politics, while Pryor is being hit for his vote in favor of Obamacare.

he latest survey of 1,068 likely Arkansas voters was taken on April 3-4, 2014. – See more at: http://talkbusiness.net/2014/04/pryor-holds-small-lead-cotton-high-profile-u-s-senate-race/#sthash.JtwLXHWa.dpuf
he latest survey of 1,068 likely Arkansas voters was taken on April 3-4, 2014. – See more at: http://talkbusiness.net/2014/04/pryor-holds-small-lead-cotton-high-profile-u-s-senate-race/#sthash.JtwLXHWa.dpuf

The poll shows Pryor with a 10-point lead among women and Cotton with a 7-point lead among men. Cotton’s lead among voters who call themselves independent was 50 percent to 34 percent for Pryor.

The poll also found that Pryor led Cotton in three of the state’s four congressional districts, including the 4th District, which Cotton represents in Congress. The only district where Cotton had a lead was in the heavily Republican 3rd District in northwest Arkansas.

 

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor drawing fire for remarks about opponent’s military service

Pryor says U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton gives off ‘sense of entitlement’ because of his Army service

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK (CFP) – Arkansas Republicans are demanding an apology from U.S. Senator Mark Pryor for saying in a television interview that his GOP opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, has exhibited a “sense of entitlement” because he served in the U.S. Army.

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor

In an interview with MSNBC on March 5, Pryor was asked whether Cotton’s military service, which is prominently mentioned in his campaign, should be a qualification to become a senator.

“No, there’s are a lot of people in the Senate who didn’t serve in the military,” Pryor said. “In the Senate, we have all kinds of different people, all kinds of different folks that have come from all kinds of different backgrounds.”

“And I think that’s part of this sense of entitlement that (Cotton) gives off, is that almost it’s like, ‘I served my country, therefore elect me to the Senate.’ That’s not how it works in Arkansas.”

However, Pryor also said he has “total respect” for Cotton’s two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and thanked him for his service.

But the Arkansas Republican Party pounced on what it called Pryor’s “outrageous” comments.

“To suggest, as Senator Pryor has, that military service is not a qualification to run for office is an affront to every man and woman who has put on the uniform to serve this country,” State GOP Chairman Doyle Webb said in a statement.. “He should immediately apologize to them and to Congressman Tom Cotton.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

Responding to Pryor’s comments on the Fox News Channel, Cotton, who graduated from Harvard Law School before joining the Army, said, “I didn’t leave a good law job to join the Army out of a sense of entitlement. I left because I wanted to serve my country.”

“I’m not like Mark Pryor. I haven’t spent 25 years in politics, but I can tell you this — you learn a lot more about leadership at officer candidate’s school and Ranger school at Ft. Benning and leading troops in the streets of Baghdad than you learn in the halls of Congress.

Cotton also said he was “surprised that Mark Pryor doesn’t think we need more veterans in Congress.  Frankly, I think if we had more people in the Congress who were veterans, Congress might be a little more respected, just like our military is.”

So far, Pryor has not apologized. His campaign did release a statement saying that while the senator is “grateful” for Cotton’s military service, the campaign should be a contrast between their records in Congress.

“Cotton has said himself that military experience shouldn’t be the sole or primary qualification for political office,” the statement said.

Watch Pryor’s comments on Cotton’s military service:

Farm bill is front and center in Arkansas Senate race

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor is hitting his GOP opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, for his vote against the farm bill

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK (CFP) — Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor is blasting his 2014 Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, for his vote against a farm bill that cleared the House on January 29.

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor

Cotton was the only member of Arkansas’ all-Republican House delegation to vote against the bill. Trying to make hay of that vote, Pryor appeared at the State Capitol in Little Rock on February 1, with three Natural State farmers by his side.

“You have to find common ground, and you have to do right by the people that you represent,” Pryor said. “My opponent, however, does not share that view. His is a my-way-or-the-highway approach.”

The incumbent senator accused Cotton of doing the bidding of out-of-state campaign backers who opposed the bill. But in an interview with Little Rock television station KATV, Cotton defended his vote against a measure that he said cost too much money and didn’t do enough to reform the federal Food Stamp program.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

“All farmers know, you can’t keep on spending more money than you take in,” said Cotton, who grew up on a farm in rural Yell County.

Arkansas is a largely rural state with a large agricultural sector. Pryor is clearly hoping that Cotton’s vote will fall flat with farm voters come November.

The other three Republicans in the state’s House delegation — U.S. Reps. Steve Womack, Tim Griffin and Rick Crawford — supported the $100 billion farm bill, which passed the House by a vote of 266-151.

The farm bill now heads to the Senate, where Pryor says he will vote for it. Arkansas’s other senator, John Boozman, has indicated that he, too, will likely support the bill..

Among Cotton’s major finaicial backers is the Club for Growth, a small-government group that opposed the farm bill.

The group charaterized the farm bill as an “unholy marriage of agricultural subsidies and Food Stamps.”

“It’s a ‘Christmas Tree’ bill where there’s a gift for practically every special interest group out there with a well-connected lobbyist,” the group said.

Analysis: Results in Arkansas Senate election bode ill for Democrats in November

Victory by an anti-Obamacare Republican in a Democratic district may forecast trouble ahead for Mark Pryor and Mike Ross

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

arkansas mugJONESBORO, Arkansas (CFP) — The results of a special election to fill a vacancy in the Arkansas Senate are making Natural State Democrats mighty nervous.ME sm

Republican John Cooper easily defeated Democrat Steve Rockwell in a district in Jonesboro, in the northeastern part of the state.

Rockwell was a moderate businessman in the image of Governor Mike Beebe and former U.S. House Rep. Mike Ross, the Democratic candidate for governor this year.

He was also running in a what had been a Democratic district, in a part of the state that traditionally leans Democratic.

But Cooper, a retired AT&T manager, based his campaign on opposition to the state’s private-option expansion of Medicaid to cover uninsured Arkansans — an expansion made possible by the federal Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

Rockwell supported the private option, which Beebe pushed through the legislature last year. While the propoal had substantial Republican support at the time, a strongly anti-Obamacare faction of the GOP was incensed and has been making their displeasure known ever since.

Cooper’s victory may imperil the private option, which will come before the legislature again this year. The first time around, it passed in the Senate with just two votes to spare, one of which was cast by the man Cooper is replacing, Paul Bookout.

But perhaps more ominously for Democrats, it indicates the potency of Obamacare as a issue Republicans can use in November.

Pryor, who voted for Obamacare, is being assailed for that vote at every turn by his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton.

Ross may also face the backlash in the governor’s race. He supported Obamacare on a key vote in a House committee, although, in the end, he voted against it on the floor. But he has come out in favor of the public option in Arkansas.

Of the three Republicans in the gubernatorial primary, two —  Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman and State Rep. Debra Hobbs of Rogers — have come out against the private option.  Hobbs voted against it; Coleman’s campaign Web site features a petition calling for its repeal.

The Republican frontrunner, former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, has not taken a clear position on the private option. However, he has been highly critical of Ross for his committe vote for the Obamacare bill.

Coleman and Hobbs have been trying to make hay out of Hutchinson’s lack of clarity on the private option. It remains to be seen if either one of them can ride it to victory in the primary.

But no matter who Republicans end up nominating, Obamacare is going to be the 800-pound gorilla in both the races for Senate and governor. And if the Jonesboro Senate race is a barometer of how it may play, that is not good news for Pryor or Ross.

Even more problematic may be the fact that the fight over the private option will dominate the upcoming legislative budget session, pitting Beebe and his Democratic allies in the legislature against a very noisy anti-Obamacare faction for weeks on end.

One potential silver lining for Ross and Pryor: If Republicans manage to torpedo the private option, as many as 250,000 Arkansans who will be thrown off the insurance rolls may get mad enough to fight back.

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