Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Why Pryor Decided Time Was Ripe to Appear With Obama

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

He asked for it. And anyone politically savvy enough to win two Senate elections must have decent reasons for doing something that seems so counterintuitive.

Mark Pryor is the only Democrat in the Arkansas congressional delegation and currently a clear-cut underdog to secure another term. That’s mainly because only about a third of the state’s voters approve of the job performance of President Barack Obama, even poorer numbers than his 2012 faring — the president lost Arkansas by 24 percentage points. In 2008, he lost to Sen. John McCain by a mere 20 points in the Natural State.

And yet it was at Pryor’s urging that Obama on Wednesday made his first trip to the state as president — a 150-minute foray that in reality was largely about midterm campaign politics, even though it was officially all about getting the first-responder-in-chief to put his own eyes on the South’s severe natural disasters.

“The federal government’s going to be right here until we get these communities rebuilt,” the president said after touring the tornado-ravaged suburb of Vilonia, 30 miles north of Little Rock. “I know you can count on your senator” and other local officials to deliver what will be required, Obama said, facing the cameras in shirt sleeves with a checkered-shirt-clad Pryor standing near his right shoulder.

Because of some unusual circumstances, the visit did not countermand the conventional wisdom that standing with the president is the most dangerous thing a vulnerable congressional Democrat could do between now and November.

Instead, the event provided Pryor with an extraordinary opportunity to burnish his own political brand.

“Putting Arkansas first, regardless of political consequences, is his trademark,” the senator’s campaign website home page boasts. It’s a theme Pryor returns to most often when he’s explaining his reasons for opposing Obama or the majority of his fellow Senate Democrats, which he did as often as any other member of his party last year. But in this case, Pryor can say bringing the president to view the damage, and personally lobbying for the most generous possible federal response, was the most appropriate way to help his constituents — despite any risks to his own electoral fortunes.

Had the senator asked the White House to steer the president clear of the damage, Pryor would have subjected himself to charges of hypocrisy, that he was putting his own campaign optics ahead of what’s best for the state.

Beyond that, extending Wednesday’s invitation creates for Pryor a win-win situation. If between now and Nov. 4 the federal government is seen as having provided all the grants, loans and loan guarantees it could to the farmers and homeowners in the four counties around Little Rock, then Pryor can point to the president’s trip (at his suggestion) as a reason why. But if the federal largesse is seen as lacking, he can say he did the best he could and thereby absolve himself of responsibility for those shortcomings — while blaming the unpopular Obama.

In these ways, Pryor’s move is somewhat analogous to the most famous “disaster politics” maneuver of recent times: Gov. Chris Christie inviting Obama to visit New Jersey just after Hurricane Sandy and just before the 2012 election. The governor concluded he could endure the lambasting from fellow Republicans, who accused him of helping the president to boost his own re-election to a second term, because at home he could boast that he’d put his state’s interests ahead of such partisanship.

The tornadoes have already provided Pryor with one political benefit. Staying behind to help coordinate initial recovery efforts allowed him to miss one of the most politically problematic votes of the year — on whether to raise the minimum wage. The issue is vitally important to the Democratic base but anathema to GOP business interests.

Since this year’s campaign has six months to go, there’s every reason to suspect the weather has not altered the Arkansas dynamic irreversibly. But the Pryor move had the effect of temporarily silencing Republican campaign rhetoric, with the senator’s critics concluding they might otherwise stand accused of politicizing the tragedy. (Fifteen people died and hundreds of homes were destroyed by the series of twisters that swept through the state 10 days ago.)

Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, for now the favorite to defeat Pryor,  remained at the Capitol Wednesday, but said he appreciated Obama’s interest in the state’s plight. The lawmaker whose district was the hardest hit is Rep. Tim Griffin. The Republican is leaving Congress to run for lieutenant governor, and chose to skip the day’s House votes on Lois Lerner contempt so he could stand with Pryor, outgoing Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and greet the arrival of Air Force One.

The group surveyed the path of destruction by helicopter before meeting with grieving families, local officials and emergency personnel.

Whatever the unexpected benefits, hosting the visit is likely to keep Pryor unique among the “red-state five,” the Senate Democrats running for re-election in places Mitt Romney carried.

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., was a no-show when the president last visited North Carolina in January — fully four months before GOP primary voters on Tuesday nominated state House Speaker Thom Tillis from a roster of less viable opponents. Obama has been to Louisiana seven times as president, but not since Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu’s prospects veered into Tossup territory last fall. He’s showed no signs of making good on his promise last fall to visit Montana, where appointed Democratic Sen. John Walsh is in an uphill climb for election in his own right. And Democrat Mark Begich has warned the president to stay away from Alaska this year — unless he’s willing to stand beside the senator while his health and energy policies get shellacked.

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  • The Savage Hombre

    To be honest, our resident marxist agitator’s obsession with his own skin color seems rather odd:

  • Victor Laginas

    HAIL MARY….this one is over

  • David Whitney

    “extending Wednesday’s invitation creates for Pryor a win-win situation”

    You mean it was the least bad option. Pryor’s only hope is to turn out the Dem base, and you do that by aligning yourself with Obama. His gamble is he’ll realize a net gain in votes by increasing the turnout in a greater number than those whom he alienates by appearing as Obama lite (pun intended).

    Call it what it is — desperation. Pryor is groveling for money to a president who doesn’t give a hoot about Arkansas or any other flyover state. The one thing Obama does understand is how to give away taxpayer money in return for Democratic votes.

    • Rob_Chapman

      Utterly uncalled remark about fly-over states.

      Look at POTUS’ calendar and you will see that he spends a good deal of time in the continental interior.

      It is a shame that conservatives call helping storm devastated families a give away in return for votes: a; those people need the help; b; it is a legal and duly passed law that provides the authority to do so; and c, is it a political ploy when GOP chief executives like Chris Christie disburse such funds?

      • David Whitney

        Oh, you betcha it’s a political ploy. You could learn something if you did some homework and found out exactly who gets that money. Christie/Obama = birds of a feather.

        • Rob_Chapman

          Wow, David, I bow to your superior intellect and acuity.

          I suppose next thing you will be telling me that Tinker Bell is secretly cheating on Peter Pan with Captain Hook!

  • aNativeTexan

    The sad part of this visit to Arkansas is the fact people where affected by tornadoes, but as MR. Obama always looks at the bright side of events this stop will allow Mr. Obama to write off the expense of the first leg of a fundraising trip to California on the tax payer’s tab. Must be wonderful to be treated as King of the World on someone else’s money(tax payers) and not have to worry about the carbon footprint you leave behind because your election started to heal the planet, yes the oceans stopped rising? Or maybe it’s climate change and another ice age?

    • fribble

      Yes, the $64,000 per couple extortion raiser in LA is a real feather in his cap. He now has enough to outfit an entire Native American tribe.

  • Yonatan YONATAN

    As a former republican supporter, it sickens me the way the senate republicans have held” hostage” the passing of the unemployment extension bill in the senate. When there are more than 2.6 million families affected by unemployment in this country, many of whom have lost everything and have become homeless, while waiting for the extension bill to finally be passed. It saddens me to think that my party who claims to represent “family values”, have shown itself, to be the party that represents big business interests, and lobbyists. Senators such as John Boehner, have put the interest of the XL Oil Pipeline lobbyist, before his own constituents, and countrymen. The republican party has shown us their “new face”, and it’s not a pretty one. When millions of families in this country have had to face evictions, home foreclosures, personal bankruptcy, and homelessness, the senate are still playing “party politics” as usual. Since late last December the republican senate have used these poor families as bargaining chips, and for political leverage, to advance their own political agenda. As Benjamin Franklin once said “you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”, and the republican party will see a tremendous backlash by these millions of voters in the coming election. Many of voters who were once long time republicans, are disillusioned, and disgusted by the republicans uncaring and unsympathetic policies and decisions. I nor any of my “former ‘ republican friends, will not ever AGAIN VOTE FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

    • brewers60

      Not that your post had anything to do with the article, and sure you’re a former “republican supporter” – but in your opinion how long should unemployment last? Or should it go on forever?
      And please cite your source showing the millions who are homeless because of losing unemployment insurance. Thanks.

    • wallier

      Phony alert. Phony alert. Phony alert.

    • Orleans

      Lie much? You’ve never voted for the GOP. You’ve pretty much hit every Democrat talking point-except 0care. Is that in your next posting?

  • jb willikers

    My guess is that Pryor will need a job next year and it pays to show the boss you like him, especially this one.

    • teapartyidiots

      Polling says you may be very, very wrong.

  • True Observer

    Race is over.
    Cozying up to the man for a job in the administration.

  • Brian McGrath

    Six million plus middle class Americans had their insurance polices cancelled by ObamaCare:
    -If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance!
    -If you like your doctor, you can keep you doctor!
    -We’ll lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year!

    Obama’s “keep your plan” promise labeled “Lie of the Year”

  • Brian McGrath

    CBO: healthcare law could cause as many as 20M to lose coverage

    Analysis: Tens of millions could be forced out of health insurance they had


  • wallier

    And than Obama headed off to raise millions from our Hollywood heroes whose only concern is for the poor and the lack of lobster at the event.

  • valwayne

    Sen Pryor stood side by side with Obama and Nancy Pelosi and lied to the folks of Arkansas and the nation about keeping our plans, our doctors, our cancer hospitals, and saving money. LIED and LIED and LIED. Then he betrayed Arkansas and voted to cram the nightmare down our throats. Most recently he told the world that his opponent has a feeling of entitlement because he served in Iraq? Can you imagine a career politician whose daddy was a Senator telling a U.S. Veteran who served his country in Iraq that he has a feeling of Entitlement because he risked his life for our nation? Pryor sounds like one of those snotty NYC Lawyer Senators who thinks they are better than anybody else because they are rich and have a famous family name. If you LOVE Obama and Nancy Pelosi than vote for Pryor. That’s fine if you want Obama and Nancy Pelosi’s policies for Arkansas and the nation. Because Pryor puts both of them first when he votes in the Senate, NOT Arkansas. If he put Arkansas first he would have voted NO on Obamacare and it would not be the law. He votes with Obama and Pelosi 97% of the time folks. If you reelect him he can just send a Proxy into the Senate and tell them to just put him down for voting anyway Obama wants him to vote. That’s the way he votes anyway.

  • The Painful Truth

    Avoiding Obama didn’t help, so Pryor tried embracing him – plain and simple.

    • guvhog

      The fact that OBama went to a part of Arkansas that is heavily GOP shows that he knows just how small of a chance Pryor has of beating to Cotton,

  • Rob Erta

    In this related YouTube video, we find Hussein Obama verbally supporting the terrorists of the Muslim Brotherhood:

  • fribble

    The reason for appearing with Obama is for his political office after-life. He’s finished and both the President and Pryor know it.
    Pryor would love to stay in Washington and Obama can place him in one of thousands of corrupt government or private sector spots.

  • fodderphil

    To repeat a word used below by aNativeTexan, sad, isn’t it, that this endangered incumbent Dum senator, uses the occasion of a natural disaster that killed some of his constituents as a political “Kodak comment.” Otherwise, this sorry-ass legacy pol won’t go anywhere near the toxic Manchurian Charlatan. The main reason Pryor is in office anyway is due to the popularity of his ex-governor/senator father, and solon filius had the unmitigated gall not long ago to label his opponent, a brave war veteran, as an entitled creature. Flip the Senate majority in November.

  • Rufus Peebody

    In this YouTube video we find a delusional Barack Obama claiming that he will magically impel the earth to heal:

  • Mr. Sequel

    In this YouTube video, spy-chief Hussein Obama, lies to the face of the American people about keeping their insurance and their doctor:

  • Montesquieu

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