Do I believe that Senator Mark Pryor (D. AR) can win re-election against the biggest asshole running for U.S. Senate next year?  Yes, yes I do.  For the record, I am very well aware of how red Arkansas is and how giddy the GOP is about having Rep. Tom Cotton (R. AR) as their nominee.  But Pryor also has some big factors going for him.  First off, if he's going to win re-election, he's going to need a little help from his friends who also have a lot to gain from Pryor's re-election:


The former governor of Arkansas and his First Lady will return to the state to campaign for embattled Democratic Senator Mark Pryor in the run-up to the 2014 campaign. This is not about Mark Pryor, though. It is mostly about that First Lady, Hillary Clinton.

But this time, the Clintons have two much stronger reasons to push for a Pryor victory.

The first is that Hillary Clinton — who may be running for president, as you may have heard — certainly wants to ensure that Arkansas is back in play in 2016. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate won the state was 1996, when her husband was reelected (see graph at right). But even then, he only got about 53 percent of the vote (in a three way race). Obama lost the state in 2012 by almost 24 percentage points, a margin substantial enough that it might give even the Clintons pause. By spending a decent amount of time in 2014 criss-crossing the state and reestablishing connections with local voters, the Clintons certainly hope to reinvigorate support in the state.

The second reason is to ensure a strong campaign team in Arkansas. Keeping a United States Senate seat for the Democrats helps maintain an advocate connected to what's happening in Arkansas, assuming that the Democrats don't hold the governor's seat next year. If Pryor wins, Clinton can call on him to play the reverse role in 2015 — hosting fundraisers and acting as a proxy for the candidate in Little Rock and on Capitol Hill. Something he might be more eager to do if he feels like he owes the Clinton for his position. - The Atlantic, 8/14/13

When the Clintons have a lot to gain from your re-election prospects, they will certainly do everything in their power to help you win a tight race.  Say what you want about Bill and Hillary but if you're a Democrat running in a tight race, whether you're a progressive, moderate or even a Blue Dog, you want their help and you would be stupid to turn it down.  The other factor that could work in Pryor's favor is his family's name:  


In Arkansas, Pryor doesn't try to avoid his father's name or legacy. When Mark Pryor first ran for the Senate in 2002, the elder Pryor was such a presence that Tim Hutchinson, the Republican incumbent, complained that he had "debated David Pryor more than I have Mark Pryor." In a recent interview, Pryor mused that he didn't know "why the Pryors always get themselves into big Senate races," comparing his current campaign against Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to some of his father's old Senate battles.

Pryor remains one of the Senate's most endangered incumbents as Cotton argues that voters should elect a senator "who, when he says Arkansas comes first, actually means it."

Republicans acknowledge that the Pryor name and network of supporters will give the incumbent an advantage that fellow Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln didn't have in her unsuccessful re-election bid in 2010. To address that, GOP strategists say Cotton will need to make voters associate Pryor's name more with Washington and the Obama administration than his father's legacy.

"The name is a name that has been held in good stead, but now it has been linked with a name, Obama, that is not in Arkansas," state GOP Chairman Doyle Webb said earlier this year. "I think it has fallen out of favor with the average Arkansas voter." - Arkansas Business, 8/18/13

The other factor that Pryor has working in his favor, and you would never expect to, is Obamacare:


Republicans are also highlighting Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mike Ross' vote for a House health care bill in a committee when he served in Congress. Ross voted in the House against the health care law and voted for its repeal in Congress.

They're facing pushback from Democrats who are defending a law that they say will help a state where thousands remain without insurance coverage. Hoping to avoid the pitfall that former Sen. Blanche Lincoln faced in her re-election bid in 2010, Pryor has argued that the law may need fixes but doesn't need to be repealed.

"I came to the conclusion that the Affordable Care Act was the right thing for Arkansas," Pryor told members of the state Chamber of Commerce last month. "I think you can look and see it's already starting to work. It is working."

The challenge for Republicans in next year's election will be addressing the "private option" approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law. Under the plan, which awaits approval from the federal government, Arkansas will use Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for thousands of low-income workers. - Arkansas Business, 8/18/13

Pryor knows that his vote for the Affordable Health Care Act won't hurt his chances next year.  Inf act, he's been out on the campaign trail promoting Obamacare:


In defending his statements made Aug. 8 to the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Pryor cited a RAND study that touts the economic boost the state could receive from the ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare. In the chamber speech, Pryor referred to a Rand study saying the new health care law would create more than 6,000 jobs in Arkansas.

The study Pryor cites said about 6,200 hundred new jobs would be created "by economic growth stemming from insurance expansion."

Pryor also said the job creation would be new positions created by by private business through larger customer bases associated with Rand's estimated additional 401,000 insured Arkansans and businesses that are taking some sort of government funding or subsidy tied to the affordable care act.

"My guess is it's going to be a mix of a little bit of everything. You're probably going to see more jobs in healthcare because there's going to be more healthcare available to people. More people will have insurance. About 500,000 Arkansans will have insurance as a result of this. That's huge, if you think about it. That's one sixth of our population. One out of six people will have private insurance for healthcare that don't have it today. I'm assuming as part of that, you'll see more people working in different aspects of healthcare, there's going to be more paying customers in healthcare. Also, you need to remember that there's a lot of tax credits in this law for individuals and families and small businesses and they will get tax credits for themselves and people in their company to help afford health insurance."

The same Rand study Pryor quotes does claim $550 million in net economic growth, though the study says that the growth is "accounting for subsidies, Medicaid expansion, taxes, and Medicare cuts." The study also claims that the that the calculations are projections to "reflect likely conditions in 2016, given a fully implemented Affordable Care Act."

Pryor's doubling down on the Affordable Care Act comes even as polls show Arkansans overwhelmingly against the law. - The City Wire, 8/13/13

Pryor is taking Cotton seriously as a challenger and had been hitting the campaign trail hard to reconnect with his constituents and defend his record in the Senate:


Pryor, who considers himself at the “center of the Senate,” has been tied to his support of several of President Obama’s big agenda items: the Dodd-Frank financial bill, the stimulus program, and of course health care reform. He’s also taken independent stands on other issues, including efforts to address balancing the budget and gun control.

In the past week, Pryor has criss-crossed Arkansas attending events in his official Senate capacity in Batesville, Ash Flat, Mammoth Springs, Melbourne, Little Rock, Lonoke, Rogers, Springdale, Fayetteville and Fort Smith.  It’s part of his recess work and Pryor says he would much rather be meeting with constituents than blocking off time for fundraising calls.

“Fundraising is probably the least favorite part of the job. My favorite part is getting out in the state and talking to people,” Pryor said.

He knows his voting record will be a major focus of firepower from Cotton and the myriad national conservative groups that have already shown they’re willing to spend millions in Arkansas to oust him.  But he also knows that Cotton’s perceived “extremism” and the freshman Congressman’s voting record will allow him to counterpunch.

“I think certainly voting records are on limits. I think if we’ll stick to the voting records and stick to the facts, I think that’s what the people of Arkansas deserve to have in this campaign. I’m afraid what you’re going to see though is a lot of outside money,” Pryor said.

To counter the influence of money, you just have to “trust people” Pryor explains.

“You have to trust people in this state that they’re smart enough to figure it out, and they are. We’ve seen it over and over and over, election after election.  I look forward to this race. I look forward to talking about my record and what I’ve been able to accomplish, to tell people why I want another six years.” - The City Wire, 8/14/13

Pryor also hasn't been holding back any punches at Cotton's record:


5/22/2012.Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STEPHEN B. THORNTON.Republican Tom Cotton waits to do a televison interview during a watch party in Hot Springs Tuesday evening for Cotton's bid to be the Republican nominee for the race for Arkansas' 4th district Congr
First-term Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle formally announced on Tuesday, Aug. 6, that he is taking on Senator Pryor in the 2014 election. Even though he is in his second term, Pryor is viewed by Republican leaders as the most vulnerable incumbent on the ballot next year. Republican groups forced Pryor to get in reelection mode early, by launching attacks on him months ago.

In becoming a candidate, Cotton stuck to a line of attack Pryor will hear often. "I'm running because I think Arkansas deserves a senator who stands with them and not Barack Obama," Cotton said. "Mark Pryor, by his voting record over the last four and a half years, has proven that he now stands with Barack Obama, not with Arkansas."

Pryor has, in turn, criticized Cotton's record during his first-term, pointing out Cotton was the only member of the Arkansas congressional delegation to vote against a farm bill compromise, and voted against a student loan bill aimed at heading off a big increase in interest rates on students loans. "He's not voting for us," Pryor said on Tuesday. "I don't know who he's voting for, but it's not the people of Arkansas."

In most races, such political bantering is still months away. But analysts say Arkansans are going to be caught in the middle of a big fight during what is expected to be one of the most expensive and heated U.S. Senate races in the country, leading up to the Nov. 2014 vote. - Area Wilde News, 8/14/13

Like I've said before, Cotton is by far the biggest asshole the Republicans have going for them for next year.  Here are a few reasons why.  First there's his support for a government shutdown and then blaming Obama for it:


Tom Cotton is threatening to shutdown the government, which could have devastating consequences for Arkansas small businesses and the workers they employ across the state. Tom Cotton’s arrogance and bad judgment reared its ugly head last week when he said on a conservative news show that he would support a government shutdown.

Despite ducking the topic when asked by Arkansas journalists, Cotton admitted to a right wing audience that he would threaten to shutdown the government and allow the country to default:

“I think that when we return from our August recess in September with our continuing resolution and then in October-November with the debt ceiling, those are important opportunities to try to strike another blow against Obamacare before that law takes effect, before the insurance marketplaces begin to open for enrollment on October 1 and before they open for business on January 1. And whether that takes the form of trying to defund it or trying to effectively defund it by delaying for a year or two…”

In 2012 nearly 200 Arkansans received nearly $94 million in financing to start and grow companies that created jobs across the state. A government shutdown would mean that small businesses in Arkansas would be denied the credit they need to start up because the Small Business Administration wouldn’t be able to process new loans. During the government shutdowns in the 90’s “more than $ 1 million in loans to small businesses were delayed because the Small Business Administration couldn't guarantee loans,” and 5,200 small businesses were delayed in receiving SBA guaranteed financing.

Cotton’s shutdown plan has been ripped by numerous Republican Senators, including John McCain. - Arkansas Blog, 8/13/13

He's also a sexist pig:


U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-A Arkansas, announces his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Dardanelle, Ark., Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Cotton, a freshman congressman who is running for Senate in 2014, warned feminists in a 1997 article for the Harvard Crimson that no-fault divorce will backfire on them by enabling their husbands to leave them for trophy wives.

"Feminists say no fault divorce was a large hurdle on the path to female liberation," Cotton wrote. "They apparently don't consult the deepest hopes or greatest fears of young women."

Cotton, who is unmarried, wrote that he surveyed several women -- whom he referred to as "Cliffies," or female students at Radcliffe -- and they all told him the same thing: that their "greatest fear" in life was to be left by their husbands, and their "deepest hope" was to be "a good wife and mother." To that end, he says, feminists should stop trying to make it easier to get divorced.

"If men have easy access to divorce, many will choose it thoughtlessly," he wrote. "They may not gain true happiness with their new trophy wives, but they certainly will not slide into the material indigence and emotional misery that awaits most divorced women." - Huffington Post, 8/9/13

He's also backed by the financial industry:


Political action committees — set up by lobbying firms, unions, corporations and other groups trying to push their agenda in Congress — have donated more money to Financial Services Committee members in the first six months of this year than to members of any other committee. The $9.4 million total is nearly $2 million more than the total for the Armed Services Committee, the only House panel with more members.

With so many lawmakers clamoring to be on the Financial Services Committee, it has grown to 61 members from 44 since 1980, forcing the installation of four tiered rows of seats in the Rayburn House Office Building — with the first row of lawmakers on the floor, just in front of the tables used for witnesses.

The committee’s chairman, Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, remains the top recipient of donations from industry PACs this year, taking in $282,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks the influence of money in politics. But three Republican freshmen — Mr. Barr and Representatives Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ann Wagner of Missouri — have raised more money from industry PACs than many longtime committee members like Representative Spencer Bachus, an Alabama Republican who served as the panel’s chairman until the end of last year. - New York Times, 8/10/13

But worst of all, Cotton is a neo-con nutcase who is loved by the right-wing media:


As for Cotton’s politics, the man is conservative through and through. He is pro-life, pro-gun, anti–gay marriage, anti–women in combat, anti–comprehensive immigration reform, and a devout budget hawk. Where he has been most outspoken, however, is in the realm of foreign policy. An aggressive interventionist, Cotton is being touted as “the last, best hope” of the neocons—a group that has seen its star dim since the late Bush era. In particular, Bill Kristol and The Weekly Standard have developed a big ol’ man crush on Cotton, emitting a stream of glowing coverage. But, really, who can blame them? Whether opposing Chuck Hagel’s nomination to head the Pentagon, dismantling Sen. Ted Cruz’s Rand Paulian take on drone policy at a closed-door AEI retreat in March, or simply slamming the Obama administration for not keeping America safe, Cotton is an eloquent spokesman for the cause: passionate, informed, and meticulous, yet not a hyperventilating bomb thrower. Better still, his military bona fides give him the kind of street cred that is rare among the political class.

Well aware of this, Cotton whips out the military card every chance he gets—regardless of the topic at hand. Doubt the wisdom of a border fence? Let the congressman explain how, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the first line of protection for American encampments was always a physical barrier around the perimeter. Or, as he told the folks who turned out Tuesday for free barbecue and his campaign announcement at the Dardanelle Community Center, “This is a mission briefing, just like the briefings I did in Iraq on a map on the hood of a Humvee.” Listen to enough of his interviews and speeches, and Cotton starts to remind you of the Gov. Danny Chung character on HBO’s Veep, whose endless invocation of his war service is a running gag.

That said, Cotton is a genuine ass kicker who will be tough for Democrats to stop. He’s sharp, he is ambitious (even Hill Republicans observe that his vanishingly short House tenure seems to have been devoted to positioning himself for a Senate run), and he has an abundance of what one colleague called “that farmer charm.” And as with his war service, Cotton plays the plainspoken farm-boy angle for all its worth. During an appearance on Bill Bennett’s radio show, for instance, the congressman paused in his musings about the potential merits of learning Spanish to gig his host: “I don’t speak Latin or Greek or other fancy languages like you do.”

This anti-fancy-pants persona will likely serve Cotton well with Arkansas voters. Already, he has been out there slamming Pryor for siding with “the Washington elites who want to run your life” and decrying the “corrupt game” of politics and all the “crony capitalists” who have rigged it in their favor. - The Daily Beast, 8/9/13

So yeah, Cotton is a huge asshole.  Unfortunately, Cotton has a shot at beating Pryor and because he reminds guys like Bill Kristol of the good ol' days of the George W. Bush administration, right-wing Super PACs are going to spend big on Cotton.  You may not be a big fan of Pryor but the man opposes the chained CPI and has been out there defending Obamacare despite it being very unpopular in his home state.  We on the left are fighting hard to get this country to move beyond the 9/11 era and defeating Cotton would be one big step in the right direction.  If you want to get involved with Pryor's campaign, you can do so here:

Originally posted to pdc on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 09:57 PM PDT.

Also republished by This Week in the War on Women, Pushing back at the Grand Bargain, Knowledge Democrats, and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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