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HomeNewsElectionsIn Arkansas Senate Race Pryor’s Between Little Rock And Hard Place

In Arkansas Senate Race Pryor’s Between Little Rock And Hard Place

NOTE: View updated analysis of the 2014 Arkansas Senate race

The Arkansas Senate race is the second in what will be a succession of expanded analysis released for the PPD 2014 Senate Map. Pundits and pollsters are just now beginning to catch up with the rating foreseen by us for months now, which is to say, the fundamentals of the race have always justified a “Leans Republican” rating.

Sen. Mark Pryor once promised Arkansans, “Are we gonna be able to stick with our plan? The answer is yes.” Now, incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Pryor is running to the right as fast as he can, calling for a delay on the individual mandate and voting with the GOP on guns.

Liberals say he betrayed them on gun control, but that is an act aiming to paint him unafraid of standing against party and president. And it’s a smart strategy in a state that President Obama lost by 24 points. Feeling the heat, Pryor began running ads in Arkansas early, defending his vote against expanded background checks, in which he claims that “No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do. I listen to Arkansas.”

Sen. Pryor has already spent close to $900,000 on ads, including his one ad, which underscored how prevalent the Bible has been in his life. It’s a bit ridiculous considering it is coming from a man whose party removed God from their platform in 2012, but it is at least $500,000 more than Cotton, whose mother starred in his recent ad.

Pryor is now lagging behind in polling enough to consider the race “Leans Republican,” but save for one early Republican pollster showing Cotton with a 7-point lead, he wasn’t always. Our rating is largely a reflection of the demographic realities of the state and how they have changed since Pryor first ran for election, as well as the relationship between presidential job approval and Senate election outcomes.

People’s Pundit Daily uses a model that factors in PVI, or Partisan Voting Index, in order to gauge trends in a state’s voting behavior, as well as demographic-specific trends. PVI is useless to predict actual margins, but it can offer comparative analysis when attempting to predict the “chance of success” rate for a particular candidate.

For instance, the southern region of the state – which was the real key to Pryor’s past victories, has undergone a generational shift that favors Cotton. Name recognition from being his father’s son has helped Pryor outperform Democrats in the region, but he will likely not be able to rely on that name now since most of those voters will be 89. This is particularly true with an opponent like Tom Cotton, who represents the large southern swing district and is well-liked.

The Partisan Voting Index was R+9 in the state when now-Senator Boozman defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln by nearly 21 points. Now, PVI for the state is R+14. President Obama, according to Gallup, has struggled to have an approval rating in the state above 35 percent. It has averaged around 34.5 percent in 2014, increasing only modestly with his national numbers.

Coupled with a midterm turnout that will likely result in fewer Democratic voters than during a presidential cycle, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton is favored.

Nearly 61 percent of Arkansans voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and Rep. Tom Cotton emerged as the clear favorite on the Republican side easily, as most Republicans wanted Cotton to run. Cotton is the choice of the fiscally conservative Club for Growth and appears to be well-liked, much to the chagrin of Democrats who hoped to paint him as extreme.

It was clear early in 2013 that Pryor was very vulnerable, perhaps the most vulnerable Democrat up for reelection. For the reasons stated above, he is obviously in deep trouble, likely more-so than the polling and pundits are showing. Arkansas is simply not the same state it was when his father was elected, or even when Senator Pryor was first elected (I generally agree with Sean Trende’s analysis, but I am more bullish on Cotton’s chances).

View Updated Polling Below Or Return To PPD 2014 Senate Map

Poll Date Sample Cotton (R) Pryor (D) Spread
PPD Average 10/8 – 2/10 45.5 41.5 Cotton +4
Impact Management Group (R) 2/10 – 2/10 1202 RV 46 42 Cotton +4
Rasmussen Reports 2/4 – 2/5 500 LV 45 40 Cotton +5
The Arkansas Poll 10/10 – 10/17 LV 37 36 Cotton +1
Impact Management Group (R) 10/24 – 10/24 911 RV 42 41 Cotton +1
Talk Business Poll 10/8 – 10/8 603 LV 41 42 Pryor +1
WFB/The Polling Company (R) 8/6 – 8/7 600 RV 43 45 Pryor +2
Harper (R) 8/4 – 8/5 587 LV 43 41 Cotton +2


Written by

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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