Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Pryor Starts Reserving Fall Airtime in Pivotal Senate Race

Pryor is ramping up his air war. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor has been buying up fall airtime for a race critical to nearly every hypothetical Republican path to the Senate majority.

The two-term Democrat, who faces the fight of his political life against GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, has so far reserved several hundred thousand dollars worth of TV time for the closing six weeks of the race, according to a media-buying source. The Pryor campaign would not comment on its media strategy, but that’s just an opening salvo in a state already seeing a plethora of spending from outside groups and both campaigns.

Amid a vigorous on-air back-and-forth over tornado disaster relief and religion in the past week, the contours of Pryor’s path to re-election remain unchanged. The Arkansas Democrat is banking that voters’ familiarity with him — and their disbelief that Cotton is on their side — will outweigh the antipathy toward Washington and President Barack Obama.

“Mark’s been around a really long time and his family has been around a long time,” said Sheila Bronfman, a Democratic consultant in Arkansas and longtime ally of the Clintons. “People like him and they trust him. They trust where he comes from and how he was raised, and I just think that’s making a big difference here.”

As Cotton superglues Pryor to the president every chance he gets, the incumbent is highlighting his challenger’s House votes against the farm bill and Superstorm Sandy disaster relief. Those messages have carried through in nearly $3 million in media spending from the two campaigns so far in 2014 — $1.4 million by Cotton and $1.25 million by Pryor, according to multiple sources.

Both sides say they win in a race about the issues. The discrepancy is which issues will decide this race.

“I think the Cotton campaign thought they could take all this national money and come in here and run as a Republican in a red state and call it a day,” veteran Arkansas Democratic consultant Greg Hale said. “But people are being very cautious and they’re paying attention to the facts. … Literally all Tom Cotton has is Obamacare, and I just don’t think it’s enough right now.”

Republican consultant Clint Reed’s firm Impact Management released a robo-poll Wednesday showing Cotton ahead, 47 percent to 43 percent, with a slightly smaller margin than a recent Cotton campaign internal poll. Reed said the unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act and a perceived general overreach by the federal government give Cotton a built-in advantage, and the challenger remains out front in an admittedly close race. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates this race a Tilts Republican contest.

“If you look at where he’s performing among independents, I would suggest to you that Cotton is maintaining a relatively small lead as we move into the heart of the campaign,” Reed said.

Pryor is highlighting the roots he hopes will prove strong enough to withstand the current national headwinds blowing across a state trending Republican. Like several other Senate candidates this cycle — including Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La.; Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Democrat Michelle Nunn of Georgia — part of the two-term senator’s potential appeal beyond his party base stems from his revered family name.

With that in mind, the campaign this week dispatched David Pryor — a former Arkansas governor, senator and congressman — to the trail as perhaps its most vital surrogate. Republicans concede he is an asset for his son.

In a phone interview from the second stop of a multi-week tour of the state, the elder Pryor told CQ Roll Call Arkansas is changing. But he emphasized that voters there have always been independent in nature, citing the 1968 elections as the most glaring example, when presidential candidate George Wallace, Sen. J. William Fulbright and Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller all won a plurality of the statewide vote.

Speaking from the Honeycomb restaurant in Arkadelphia, Pryor said he’d already run into some old friends and had given some brief stump speeches along the way.

“I try to draw the distinctions between Congressman Cotton’s record and Mark’s record, and their philosophical take on government and its role,” he said. “I’m trying to not be negative, but I’m trying to just show the differences to their two approaches to solving problems.”

From health care to energy and beyond, Republicans say Pryor’s alignment with the president on prescient matters gives Cotton a clear edge in the race.

“No surrogate can fix the fact that Pryor is out of position on the issues voters care about,” said Cotton media consultant Brad Todd.

Despite available polls showing a close race — or maybe because of them — Democrats, who haven’t released any internal polling recently, sound more upbeat about the incumbent’s prospects than ever. David Pryor said he feels better “with each passing day,” and Hale said the senator is hitting his stride.

One Democratic insider in the state boiled the race down to this: “Can a Democratic politician who excels in retail politics beat a Republican one in reddening Arkansas?”


Related stories:

New Ads Invade Arkansas Airwaves

Tom Cotton Takes On Obama in Weekly Address

Farm Bill Vote Provides Wedge Issue for Pryor

Most Fascinating Races of 2014: Arkansas Senate

Déjà vu in Minnesota Senate Race?

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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  • darrell_b8

    I sincerely hope the people of Arkansas are not THAT stupid so as to re-elect this Liberal Progressive Leftist.

  • Packard27

    A vote for ANY Democrat this November is a vote for President Barrack Obama and the governance he has provided these past six years.

    Are you and your family better off now than you six years ago? If the answer is yes, by all means vote to reelect Senator Pryor. If you are not, however,…

  • Jesse4

    “Liberal Progressive Leftist.”

  • daddyoyo

    I’ve more than doubled my life savings since Obama took office when I invested heavily in the stock market, always a good idea when a Dem is in the White House. Take a look at the history of the DJIA if you don’t believe me.
    Also my kids are covered under my health insurance until age 26. So, all in all, we’re FAR better off.

  • daddyoyo

    I happen to be a Liberal Progressive Leftist and believe me, I wish there were more in Congress. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren come closest but there are far too many moderate Dems in my view. I’ll take Pryor over any Republican though.

  • Whit_Chambers

    He can reserve all the air time he wants, it won’t do any good.

    Pryor is toast and the Republicans take control of the Senate.

  • Whit_Chambers

    dad, you sound like you have the mind of a toad.

  • Whit_Chambers

    dad, after reading your comment, it is confirmed… you do have the mind of a toad.

    In fact, that is an insult to toads everywhere …

  • valwayne

    Pryor stood side by side with Nancy Pelosi and Obama and LIED to us about the nightmare of Obamacare. Then he betrayed the people of the USA, and especially Arkansas and voted to cram the nightmare down our throats. Then he LIED with Obama some more. Look at the disaster of our economy, our standing in the world, and the insanity on the border folks. That is Sen Pryor and Obama. Is that what you want representing you? Is that what you want?

  • Packard Day


    Congratulations. All is well then and your choice this coming fall should be easy.

    It’s good to be king…ehh?

  • Crutch

    In a village replete with idiots you have been awarded the “Head Village Idiot” trophy! Congrats! It was a landslide win!

  • Crutch

    Good to be a government employee or on welfare I guess….

  • Sol Aris

    The notion that equality somehow depends upon the unequal treatment of unique individuals is one of the main intellectual frauds perpetrated by the quacks and charlatans who preach from collectivism’s altar.

  • Joann Roxbury

    Due to the limits of human reason and our own individual ignorance, the liberty school recognizes that centralized power should be limited.

  • Robert Price Rifkin


    a living in the United States ain’t what it used to be. Wages no longer keep up
    with the increasingly out of control cost of living, taxes are going up,
    expenses are going up, everything is going up and away, and everyone is
    wondering how they’re going to get past the next pay period. We talk about this

    then there’s the question of the minimum wage. This is a touchy subject for a
    lot of people. Everyone wants their neighbors to be able to support themselves
    but they worry that raising the minimum wage is going to result in a firestorm
    or firings, as companies make up the shortfall by cutting jobs.

    most people favor a hike in the minimum (many Western countries pay far higher minimum
    wages) and even the contentious Congress seems to fall on the side of the raise

    the wage hike good for business? It may or may not be. But slavery was good for
    business and I don’t think too many people would favor a return to the profitable
    days of the plantation. It’s time to give people at least a little incentive to
    get out of bed, and get to work in the morning. The $10.10 minimum wage that
    Obama is calling for is the very least American workers deserve.

  • Robert Price Rifkin

    Maybe It’s Time to Limit Presidential Terms

    Being president of the United States is a lot like
    being the neighborhood used car salesman. You may be very good at what you do;
    you may have graduated from the Senate or the State house with all kinds of
    experience and knowledge and friends; you may be wildly popular at the time of
    the election. I talk about this on my political weblog

    But it’s that rare president who manages to keep the
    allegiance of the voters after the first 365 days in office. There’s something
    inherently rotten in the set up. Let’s face it, even the most accomplished of
    men and women seem to be no match for the kind of work that demands the right decision
    one hundred per cent of the time. They don’t call it the World’s Toughest Job
    for no reason. It’s not just tough, it’s incomprehensibly impossible to pull
    off with any real measure of success.

    Name the two or three best presidents in the last
    fifty years, then look closely at their records and their poll numbers. Reagan
    suffered in office, Bush suffered in office, Clinton suffered in office–they
    all did; they all had wide swings in popularity and long, drawn-out, awful
    periods of challenge they just didn’t seem up to. Iran-Contra, Monicagate,
    Iraq. Yet all of these presidents were around for eight years, two terms, an
    eternity in political years. And maybe that’s the problem.

    We let our Chief Execs hangs around long past their
    sell-by dates and that’s no one’s fault but our own, because we could change the
    law that lets them do that. It wouldn’t be an easy process but maybe its time
    to consider the efficacy of just such a sweeping modification to our

    Four years in the kind of high-pressure cooker that
    is the White House is more than enough for any reasonable, solid citizen. You
    can only ask so much of your public servants and four years is about right. If
    you have any doubts about that, take a look at the second terms of even our
    most accomplished presidents. Second terms are infamous for the toll they take
    on our leaders, the psychological and emotional tax. In the recent past, there
    no longer seems to be any such thing as a successful second act in the
    president business. It’s just a fact.

    Maybe it’s time to give out those mandatory fifth
    year vacations. We’d all probably feel refreshed. That is, if we can figure out
    a way to stop those three year presidential campaigns…

  • Robert Price Rifkin

    This is why I’m Running for President

    Let’s just say that I was in the right place at the
    right time and I heard the following conversation between a possible 2016
    Presidential candidate. You can read more about the campaign and the
    politicians at

    Candidate: I’m thinking about running for president.

    Friend: Are you close to making a decision?

    Candidate: Yeah, I think I’ll run.

    Friend: Do you think you have the qualities and
    qualifications needed to seek the highest office in the land?

    Candidate: What kind of question is that?

    Friend: Just asking. I figure you should have
    experience, have new ideas, be open to discussion and be willing to change your
    mind about important issues, when its necessary to be flexible.

    The Candidate flexes his muscles and shakes his

    Candidate: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Friend: I’m just saying that this is an important
    decision you’re going to make and you might want to consider that you have very
    little experience. You just got to the Senate a few months ago. You’re a
    novice. Maybe it would be better to wait a while and accumulate some important

    Candidate: I have lots of skills.

    Friends: But they’re not skills associated with
    running the greatest country in the world.

    Candidate: That’s ridiculous. Who have you been
    talking to?

    Friend: No one. I haven’t been talking to anyone.
    This conversation is just between you and me.

    Candidate: I didn’t say I was running.

    Friend: You said “I think I’ll run.”

    Candidate: Why is everyone always twisting my words?

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