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Recent polls demonstrate Pryor’s peril and Cotton’s opportunity

I’ve just returned from a Tom Cotton fundraising event. The outlook is pretty good for Tom’s bid to unseat Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, a bid that probably must succeed if Republicans are going to regain control of the Senate in the 2014 election.

Tom cited three recent polls of his race, each of which contains essentially the same good news. A poll by Arkansas Talk Business-Hendrix College shows basically a dead heat, with Pryor “ahead” by 42-41. A University of Arkansas poll shows Pryor with a 2 point lead (34-32) among likely voters, but Tom ahead 37-36 among very likely voters.

In the third poll, conducted for Tom’s campaign, he leads by 4 points, 45-41. That poll was conducted between October 15-17, as the shutdown showdown was reaching its climax.

In none of the three polls does Pryor exceed 42 percent. That’s a poor number for any incumbent, and a terrible one for an incumbent whose family has been a dominant force in state politics for decades.

Worse yet for Pryor, in each poll his approval rating is stuck in the mid-30s, with a disapproval rating that’s significantly higher — 48 percent in the Talk-Business-Hendrix poll. Thus, Pryor’s ability to run even right now in head-to-head polling seems to be more a function of superior name recognition than of a high regard for his performance in the Senate. As Tom becomes better known, the two polls — head-to-head and favorability — might well come more into line, to the likely detriment of Pryor.

Pryor wants to avoid this dynamic by blaming Tom and his fellow conservative Republicans for the partial government shutdown. But the polling strongly suggests that — however the shutdown is viewed nationally — Pryor’s tactic won’t work in Arkansas.

The Talk Arkansas-Hendrix poll finds that only 35 percent blame Republicans for the shutdown, while 40 percent blame President Obama and the Democrats (the rest blame both sides equally). Tom says that the polling done for his campaign yields about the same numbers on this question.

The precariousness of Pryor’s position is also shown by the fundraising numbers. Tom said that in the third quarter, despite raising money during only two of three months, he outraised Pryor, albeit by a small margin. Normally the incumbent has a big fundraising advantage at this stage.

Unfortunately, because Pryor ran unopposed in 2008 (what a difference six years make) his campaign has $4.4 million on hand, while Tom has $1.8 million. So there’s plenty of work to be done.

You can help by sending a donation to:

Cotton for Senate
PO Box 7504
Little Rock, AR 72217-7504

Or you can contribute online here.

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