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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.

Analysis: GOP needs an (unlikely) Southern sweep to take back the Senate

Republicans face a tall order of ousting incumbents in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina and keeping a seat in Kentucky

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com

southern states smThis year, 13 of the 14 Southern states — all save Florida — will have a Senate election. And a look at the map shows that the GOP needs to make a Shermanesque march across the South to have any hope of taking the Senate.ME sm

Barring any unforseen upsets, we can take nine of the 15 Southern races off the board — Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and two in Oklahoma.

In all of those states except Virginia and Georgia, Republican incuments are running again and are likely to win. One of the GOP-held seats in Oklahoma is open but unlikely to turn blue.

In Virginia, Democrat Mark Warner is running and favored, although the entry into the race of former Bush aide and GOP bigwig Ed Gillespie could make it interesting. The seat in Georgia is open, but, given the Peach State’s Republican proclivities, the party’s nominee would be in the driver’s seat.

That leaves five Southern races that will be pivotal — Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky. Democrats hold four of those seats; Republicans, only Kentucky.

If Republicans sweep all five of those seats, they will make a net gain of four seats. That would be enough to take control of the Senate if, as expected, the GOP takes away open Democratic seats in Montana and South Dakota.

But that also means that there is little room for error. Nearly all of the Southern dominoes have to fall the right way. And that’s easier said than done.

Louisiana is perhaps the weakest link for Republicans, who have been trying, and failing, to get Mary Landrieu out of the Senate for the past 18 years. She has proven herself to be the tabby cat of Louisiana politics — and of her nine lives, only three are spent.

North Carolina is also no slam dunk for the GOP, which is trying to defeat freshman Senator Kay Hagan. This is a state, after all, that Barack Obama carried in 2008 and almost carried in 2012, and the place where John Edwards won a Senate seat not that long ago.

In Arkansas, Senator Mark Pryor is in the political fight of his life against U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton. Yet, Pryor holds one of the most storied names in Arkansas political history. And this, remember, is the Land of Clinton, where Democrats still hold most of the statewide offices.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a brutal primary fight with Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin, with Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes waiting in the wings.

Smart money is still on McConnell, mainly because he has a mountain of money and is running in a state Obama lost by more than 20 points. But there is no question he faces a battle for survival.

At the end of the day, Republicans are likely to some of these Southern seats, maybe even most of them. But a complete sweep would seem to be a stretch.

So if they want to take back the Senate, Republicans may need to expand the map.

The best prospects for that are races in Michigan and Iowa, where Democratic incumbents are retiring,  and New Hampshire, where one-time GOP star Scott Brown may cross the border from Masschusetts to take on Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Another possibility is Alaska, where Republicans have high hopes of ousting Democatic Senator Mark Begich.

Virgnia is another possibility, although Democrats could potentially also make Georgia competitive.

Any way you slice it, though, the South is where Senate control will be won or lost — and where the GOP will need the run of a lifetime in 2014.

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