Republican Rep. Tom Cotton is now pulling away from incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in a series of recent polls on the Arkansas Senate race. Pryor was widely seen as the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for reelection up until a month ago, when Democratic strategists and one notable election pundit suggested he was running stronger than previously expected.
However, we pushed back on that assessment, as PPD’s 2014 Senate Map Predictions model has always favored Cotton in the Arkansas Senate race. Now, polling is beginning to catch up to both the fundamentals of the state and the political reality facing Pryor this election cycle.
Since May 27, Pryor has trailed Cotton in every public poll by at least 4 points, including one pollster notorious for favoring Democratic candidates since they badly polled contests in the 2012 election. Rasmussen Reports, Magellan Strategies and Impact Management Group, all found a 4-point margin, and two of them each found an identical 47 – 43 spread.
While Democratic strategists have pushed back on some of these findings, claiming they are nothing more than partisan polls that can’t be trusted, Rasmussen Reports has leaned toward Democratic candidates by more than 3 points nearly 70 percent of the time in elections contested this cycle so far.
Human Events and Gravis Marketing conducted the most recent survey of likely voters in the Arkansas Senate race, and found Tom Cotton leading Mark Pryor by 7 points, 51 – 44 percent. President Obama’s approval rating in the state was an abysmal 32 percent, and the results indicate Republican groups are succeeding in their efforts to tie Pryor to the president and a deeply unpopular health care law that the incumbent did support against the wishes of his constituencies.
”The poll is very good news for the Republicans. Arkansas is a must win state for the Republicans if they are to take back the US Senate,” said Doug Kaplan, President Of Gravis Marketing. “Press Obama has a 32 percent job approval rating and it appears he could hurt moderate Democrats in the midterm elections.”
Aside from the clear drag Obama has become on Pryor, the fundamentals of the race are unquestionably against him, and not by some small degree. Arkansas is simply not the same state that it was when his father was elected, or even when Senator Mark Pryor was first elected for that matter.
In 2010, when incumbent Democrat Blanche Lincoln was defeated by a 21-point margin by now-Senator John Boozman, the Partisan Voting Index (PVI) in Arkansas was R+9. To be sure, Sen. Mark Pryor is not Blanche Lincoln, who made the top 10 for worst performances in Senate race history. But the actual vote results in the state were 14 points more Republican than the country as a whole in 2010, and again in 2012. Unfortunately for Pryor, in 2014, the Partisan Voting Index is a mirrored R+14, up from R+9 in 2010.
In an effort to make a more apples to apples comparison, we previously analyzed Pryor’s past performances and compared the results to previous Democrats who went down in defeat. While it is certainly worth a read, the simple and shortened conclusion is that Pryor’s challenge is compounded by the fact he must outperform Democratic candidates in Arkansas’s 4th Congressional District, which you may have guessed already happens to be represented by Rep. Tom Cotton.
The Arkansas Senate race is currently “Leans Republican” on PPD’s 2014 Senate Map Predictions model. Let’s see how long it takes for that certain notable pundit to move it back.
(Note: A previous version of the polling table showed the RCP average. However, the table below reflects the PPD average, which includes the Human Events poll, and PPD’s philosophy on polling averages. Or, the fact you will miss trends if you average data months old, as other aggregators do.)
|Poll||Date||Sample||MoE||Cotton (R)||Pryor (D)||Spread|
|PPD Average||5/27 – 7/8||—||—||48.5||44||Cotton +4.5|
|Talk Business||7/22 – 7/25||1780 LV||3.0||44||42||Cotton +2|
|CBS News/NYT/YouGov||7/5 – 7/24||LV||3.0||50||46||Cotton +4|
|Human Events/Gravis Marketing||7/7 – 7/8||987 LV||3.0||50||44||Cotton +7|
|Magellan Strategies (R)||6/4 – 6/5||755 LV||3.6||49||45||Cotton +4|
|Rasmussen Reports||5/27 – 5/28||750 LV||4.0||47||43||Cotton +4|
|PPP (D)||4/25 – 4/27||840 RV||3.4||42||43||Pryor +1|
|NBC News/Marist||4/30 – 5/4||876 RV||3.3||40||51||Pryor +11|
|Magellan Strategies (R)||4/14 – 4/15||857 LV||3.4||46||43||Cotton +3|
|NY Times/Kaiser||4/8 – 4/15||857 RV||4.0||36||46||Pryor +10|
|Talk Business Poll*||4/3 – 4/4||1068 LV||3.0||43||46||Pryor +3|
|Opinion Research Associates||4/1 – 4/8||400 RV||5.0||38||48||Pryor +10|
|CEA/Hickman Analytics (D)||2/17 – 2/20||400 LV||4.9||46||46||Tie|
|Impact Management Group (R)||2/10 – 2/10||1202 RV||2.8||46||42||Cotton +4|
|Rasmussen Reports||2/4 – 2/5||500 LV||4.5||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||3.2||42||41||Cotton +1|
|Talk Business Poll||10/8 – 10/8||603 LV||4.0||41||42||Pryor +1|
|WFB/The Polling Company (R)||8/6 – 8/7||600 RV||4.0||43||45||Pryor +2|
|Harper (R)||8/4 – 8/5||587 LV||4.0||43||41||Cotton +2|