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Analysis: Midterms a show of woe for Southern Democrats

GOP has a particularly strong showing in the upper South, where Democrats have recently been competitive

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states sm

(CFP) — One look at a color-coded map of midterm election results in any Southern state tells the story – there’s a tsunami of red and a shrinking pool of blue.

Take Texas, for example, with its 254 counties. Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn carried 236 of them; the Republican candidate for governor, Attorney General Greg Abbott, carried 235. The only blue is found in Dallas, El Paso, Austin and along the Mexican border.

But that’s still more blue than in Oklahoma, where both Republican U.S. Senate candidates swept all 77 counties, and in West Virginia, where GOP Senate candidate Shelley Moore Capito swept all 55, despite the fact that Democrats have a 350,000-person lead in voter registration.

A deeper look at the numbers from the midterm elections shows just how far Democrats have fallen from the halcyon days when they had an iron grip on the solid South. They’re not just losing; lately, they’re not even competitive.

And perhaps even more troubling for Democrats is the fact that the dam seems to have burst in states in the upper South, where the party had been holding its own at the state level.

This year, 13 of 14 Southern states — all but Florida — had a U.S. Senate election, and two states — Oklahoma and South Carolina — had two. Setting aside Louisiana, which is headed to a runoff, and Alabama, which Democrats didn’t even bother to contest, GOP candidates won by an average of nearly 21 points.

Democrats couldn’t crack 30 percent in either Oklahoma race. They failed to crack 40 percent in six others. In fact, Republicans won by double digits in 10 races. Only Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina were close, with the GOP taking the latter two.

Things were just about as bad in races for governor, where the GOP margin of victory was about 18 percent. Republicans won by double digits in six of the eight governor’s races. Only Florida and Georgia were even remotely close.

The news was particularly bad for Democrats in three upper South states that were politically competitive a decade ago – West Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee.

In West Virginia, Democrats not only lost the U.S. Senate race, but they lost all three U.S. House seats, and Republicans took control of both houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1931.

With Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor’s loss, Arkansas will have an all-Republican congressional delegation for the first time since Reconstruction. Heading into the election, Democrats held five out of the seven statewide constitutional officers. In the midterm, they lost all seven.

Tennessee used to be split between Republicans in the east and Democrats in the west. Now, the GOP is winning everywhere, holding seven of the state’s nine U.S. House seats. Both Alexander and Governor Bill Haslam, re-elected with 71 percent of the vote, carried Shelby County, which includes the Democratic bastion of Memphis.

Increasingly, Democrats seem to be doing better in the deep South, where they can rely on the support of black voters, than in the upper South, where black populations are smaller.

For example, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, despite being a long-time incumbent in a very red state, won by a smaller margin than did Republican Tom Cotton, who beat Pryor like a rug in Arkansas.

Some might attribute Graham’s narrower margin to his Tea Party problems. But Alexander — who faced a similar Tea Party dynamic — managed to win by 30 points in Tennessee.

What is clear from the midterms is that despite recent gains at the presidential level in states such as North Carolina and Virginia, Democrats are becoming less competitive across the region, and the South is becoming more monolithically red.

Indeed, the midterm results support the argument that in most of the South, the two-party system is becoming a relic of the past.

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.

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:

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