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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.

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.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell turns back Tea Party primary challenge

In Georgia, David Perdue and Jack Kingston advance to July 22 Republican primary runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

kentucky mugLOUISVILLE (CFP) — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell easily turned back a Tea Party-inspired challenge Tuesday to win the GOP nomination for a sixth term representing Kentucky.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, St. Simons businessman David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah won spots in a July 22 runoff for the Republican nomination for the Peach State’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

McConnell took 60 percent of the May 20 vote, compared to 36 percent for Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, who had the backing of outside Republican groups critical of McConnell’s leadership, including the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks.

However, the commonwealth’s other senator, Rand Paul, bucked his Tea Party supporters to back McConnell.

McConnell will now face Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in November.

U.S. Senate hopeful David Perdue

U.S. Senate hopeful David Perdue

In Georgia, Perdue and Kingston sat atop a seven-candidate field, with Perdue at 31 percent and Kingston at 26. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel of Roswel came in third at 22 percent.

Two other sitting U.S. House members, Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, trailed the three front-runners. Some establishment figures in the GOP had expressed concern that a victory by either Gingery or Broun would turn the Georgia seat into a Democratic target in November.

Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, easily won the Democratic Senate nomination for the seat current held by U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor and Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton both won their Senate primaries and will face off in November.

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.

GOP challenger Tom Cotton fires first salvo against Mark Pryor in Arkansas Senate race

Cotton puts up attack ad going after Pryor over Obamacare’s special exemptions for congressional staffers

(See ad below)

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (CFP) — The first attack ad of the 2014 Arkansas Senate race features an goose frolicking around the Capitol, coupled with a very prominent coupling of President Obama with incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, who is seeking Pryor’s seat, began airing an ad this week entitled “What’s Good for the Goose” that links Senator Pryor’s 2009 vote in favor of Obamacare to the administration’s decision to exempt congressional staffers from getting coverage under the new health care law.

The ad features text saying that Pryor “voted to make you live under Obamacare,” then mentions the exemption, which it terms “special subsidies for Mark Pryor.” It ends with the tagline, “Pryor with Obama, voting against Arkansans,” under side-by-side pictures of the senator and president.

In a statement, Pryor’s campaign dismissed Cotton’s broadside as “frivolous and false.” But the senator has so far not aired a rebuttal ad.

Pryor did vote for Obamacare. However, the exemption that keeps congressional staffers from being forced into the new health care exchanges was initiated by the Obama administration, not Congress, although lawmakers lobbied for the change.

Republicans in the House, including Cotton, have been trying to overturn the administration’s decision with legislation. The Democratic leadership in the Senate has refused to bring up the measure for a vote.

Cotton’s new ad comes amid the government shutdown. House Republicans, with his support, have tied a funding measure to repeal or delay of Obamacare. But over in the Senate, Pryor and the rest of the Democratic caucus have refused to go along.

Pryor’s campaign has blasted Cotton for what it called his “irresponsible cheerleading” for the shutdown.

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