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Posts in "Arkansas"
August 28, 2014
The South continues to be dominated by big Senate races, with a couple of interesting House races sprinkled in for fun.
There have been two changes to the 5 races to watch list since last summer. North Carolina’s 7th District dropped off after Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre chose retirement instead of another competitive race against Republican David Rouzer. The Kentucky Senate race is still competitive between Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, but everyone will be watching that race regardless of whether I include it on the list.
Here are the top five races to watch in the South next year: Full story
June 9, 2014
More than a year ago, I called Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., this cycle’s most vulnerable senator. That hasn’t changed.
The longer I do this, the more transparent I try to be about my thinking about each race. So, this column sets out my view of the Arkansas Senate race, which has been different from the thinking of many.
The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call, rates it as a Tossup/Tilts Republican contest, while many (probably most) others now see the race as a pure tossup, or possibly even view Pryor having a small advantage.
Those who see Pryor in good shape point to two public polls conducted during the spring showing the Democrat holding a significant lead over his challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, the GOP nominee.
April 11, 2014
Democrats plan to turn out thousands of African-American voters this fall, in an effort to hold the Senate majority. The challenge is that some of them aren’t yet registered to vote.
Which begs the question, after opportunities to elect and re-elect the first black president, why would an African-American choose this year’s midterm elections to finally jump from the sidelines and into the game?
This question especially matters given that contests in North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan and Louisiana will help determine control of the Senate.
Democratic strategists believe there is low-hanging fruit in the black populations in Arkansas and Louisiana, where Democrats are defending seats, because those states never saw a well-financed and organized get-out-the-vote effort from President Barack Obama’s campaign. After all, neither state was regarded as competitive in the past two presidential races.
This cycle, Democrats on the House and Senate sides are investing unprecedented amounts of money into their party’s ground game for the midterm elections. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is set to spend $60 million on 4,000 staff in top states through the Bannock Street Project to get out the vote.
Part of that effort is focused on boosting black turnout from traditional midterm levels to something closer to presidential levels in Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as one of the Democrats’ best pickup opportunities in Georgia, and potentially Michigan and North Carolina — both of which saw plenty of attention in 2008 and 2012.
Democrats are encouraged by the Obama campaign’s ability to boost the black percentage of the vote in Ohio from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012. (Interestingly, the 2010 exit poll in Ohio found blacks constituting 15 percent of the state electorate in that midterm, two years before the Democrats’ major effort in the Buckeye State.)
But it’s one thing to boost African-American turnout in a year when the first black president is seeking re-election, and it is something very different to boost that same turnout during a midterm.
One of the biggest challenges facing Democrats this cycle is enthusiasm. Dan Balz had a good piece on this in The Washington Post after the special election in Florida’s 13th District.
And the African-American community is not immune from the enthusiasm challenge. Democratic strategists aren’t eager to reveal the specific messages they will use to mobilize black voters, but they are likely to try to rally those potential voters around the president and his legislative agenda, including issues of equality and fairness, such as a minimum wage increase, equal pay for women and an immigration overhaul.
Complicating the task is that Democratic strategists will be asking these new black voters to support vulnerable Democratic senators such as Mary L. Landrieu, Mark Pryor and candidates such as Michelle Nunn, each of who must demonstrate a level of independence from Obama’s agenda in order to remain competitive with white voters.
Even if Democrats succeed in registering and turning out more black voters, they will only affect total turnout in those contests at the margins. Of course, in razor thin margins, that could be enough to matter.
In Arkansas, Democrats estimate that there are 121,000 unregistered African-Americans by using census data. By registering a fraction of that population (even somewhere between 10 percent and 30 percent), Democratic strategists believe it could tilt the outcome of the race between Pryor and GOP Rep. Tom Cotton.
The black population of Arkansas is 15 percent. In the 2008 presidential election, black voters made up 12 percent of the electorate, according to exit polls. In the 2010 midterms, black voters made up 11 percent of the electorate. Because the media consortium chose to cut back its exit polling operation, there is no exit poll data for Arkansas for 2012.
Of the top 14 Senate races, Arkansas is one of seven states where the black population cracks double digits. The other states include Louisiana (32 percent), North Carolina (21 percent), Michigan (14 percent), Virginia (19 percent) and Georgia (30 percent).
The other half of the Senate playing field includes states with miniscule black populations. Those states include Alaska (3 percent), Colorado (4 percent), Iowa (3 percent), New Hampshire (1 percent), West Virginia (3 percent), South Dakota (1 percent) and Montana (less than 1 percent).
In Georgia, Democrats are excited about the long-term demographic trends in the state, but strategists believe there is a short-term opportunity to increase black turnout this year. There are an estimated 375,000 African-American voters who voted in 2012 but not 2010, and 572,000 African-Americans still unregistered. And in Louisiana, where Landrieu is running for re-election, Democrats estimate 185,000 African-Americans voted in 2012 but not 2010, and another 228,000 African-Americans are unregistered.
The New York Times did a nice piece on the relationship between the Landrieu family and black voters going back to the senator’s father and up to her brother’s recent mayoral election in New Orleans.
In 2008, black voters made up 29 percent of the vote in the senator’s re-election race, according to the exit poll. Landrieu won the black vote, 96 percent to 2 percent but lost the white vote to Republican John Kennedy 65 percent to 33 percent in her 52 percent statewide victory. Two years later in the midterm, the black percentage of the electorate slipped to 24 percent.
Theoretically there is also an opportunity to increase black turnout in Michigan. The Obama campaign was able to increase black turnout from 12 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2012, and there are an estimated 304,000 unregistered African-Americans in the state. But in midterms, black voters have made up closer to 10 percent of the electorate, according to pollsters who have worked in the state.
Considering long-term historical trends, increasing African-American turnout in a midterm election looks like a long shot or bank shot for Democrats. But for their strategists and campaigns, having a plan and being proactive sounds much better than simply waiting on the shore to be hit by a wave.
February 5, 2014
Milton Wolf, a diagnostic radiologist, is running as the conservative alternative to Sen. Pat Roberts in the Republican primary in Kansas. But Wolf was just endorsed by Liberal county commissioner Jim Rice.
OK, seriously: Rice is chairman of the Seward County Commission from Liberal, Kansas (population 21,000). But you can’t make this stuff up.
Wolf was in Washington last week making the rounds. He stopped by the Rothenberg Political Report headquarters and sat down with Roll Call for an on-camera interview.
Roberts will have the vast majority of the establishment support, but Wolf will likely need to peel away a little more local support than a county commissioner from rural southwest Kansas to win the nomination. Wolf has been endorsed by Senate Conservatives Fund and Madison Project (led by former Kansas Rep. Jim Ryun). Full story
January 14, 2014
I wrote my first Dangerous Dozen open House seats column in this space 14 years ago, so I figured I might as well keep the streak going, though it isn’t nearly as impressive as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
As in my Jan. 17, 2000, column, the districts are listed in order of vulnerability. “All of the races on the list currently are worth watching, but I’ve concluded that the races at the top of the list are more likely to change party control than those at the bottom,” I wrote back then. The same applies now.
Utah’s 4th District (Jim Matheson, a Democrat, is retiring.)
Barack Obama received 41 percent of the vote in this district in 2008, but only 30 percent in his bid for re-election. No Democrat will begin with Matheson’s goodwill or moderate record, making the district impossible to hold for his party. After November, Republicans will control all four of the state’s House districts and both Senate seats. Full story
January 7, 2014
By mid-December, more than $17.5 million had been spent on TV ads in just four Senate contests: in North Carolina ($8.3 million), Kentucky ($3.5 million), Arkansas ($3.4 million) and Louisiana ($2.3 million), according to a recent piece by Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad.
The numbers are interesting and newsworthy. But it’s important to understand the dirty little secret of early TV ads: At the end of the day, most of the ads, and most of the money spent on them, won’t make a dime’s worth of difference in the November results.
I know because I’ve seen this movie before — almost 30 years ago. Full story
December 19, 2013
The Arkansas Senate race continues to be close and hard-fought. Polling shows the race extremely competitive, and both sides have already spent heavily. Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor has spent almost $900,000 on his re-election bid, while Republican challenger Tom Cotton’s campaign has spent more than $300,000. Outside groups have also been heavily involved.
Pryor has run early ads attacking Cotton’s ambition and selected House votes, as well as TV spots that paint the senator’s values in a positive light to crucial Arkansas voters. Republicans have generally tried to demonize Pryor, but Cotton went up recently with a positive, introductory ad featuring the challenger’s mother.
Each side has boosted the other’s negatives, but Democrats have reason to hope that their initial attempts to define the challenger will make it more difficult for him to make headway against Pryor.
Voters in the state currently are able to make the distinction between President Barack Obama’s record and Pryor’s, and the president’s recent job approval dip didn’t seem to hurt him in Arkansas, where he had hit rock bottom earlier. That’s good news for Democrats who hope that in November voters don’t see Pryor as connected at the hip with the president.
But while Pryor’s campaign is off to a good start and seems to have benefited from a strong, aggressive early effort, the last few months have not been kind to Democrats nationally.
Currently, we seem to be headed toward a typical midterm election, with unhappy voters regarding Election Day as an opportunity to make a statement about the president. With Obama’s job rating in the upper 30s and low 40s in national polls — and lower in Arkansas — Pryor may not be able to swim against a strong Republican current.
Democrats like to point out that Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Jon Tester (Montana) were able to win close, hard-fought Senate races in states that went comfortably for Mitt Romney in 2012, and they argue that those outcomes demonstrated that voters can make distinctions between candidates.
Voters can and do make distinctions, and that is why Pryor has any chance of winning re-election next year. But the difference between 2012 and 2014 (and 2010) is that voters in 2012 had separate votes to cast for president and the Senate in North Dakota and Montana, but next year they will have only one. Given that, the president’s performance can have more of an impact on House and Senate voting decisions in a midterm than in a presidential year.
We don’t now expect 2014 to be as bad for Democrats as 2010 was, but we also don’t expect the midterm election to be as good for Democrats as 2012 was. The makeup of the electorates will be different, and the president’s standing is likely to be lower.
While we continue to regard the Arkansas Senate race broadly as a tossup and think that Pryor is doing all of the right things, we are increasingly skeptical that he can localize the Senate contest as much as he needs to in a state where Obama is so unpopular.
We now believe that there is a better than even chance that as November approaches Arkansas voters will want to make a statement about the president’s performance, and the only way they will be able to do that is by their vote in the Senate race. Unless Pryor can drive Cotton’s negatives through the roof, and prevent his own from going there as well, it will be difficult for the senator to survive, no matter how good a race he runs.
December 16, 2013
When we think of political battlegrounds, states like Ohio and Florida come to mind. But every so often, a small state becomes a partisan political battleground.
This cycle, that’s Arkansas — about as unlikely a state as you might imagine.
While Democrats see Arkansas as a place to mount a counterattack after a series of defeats, Republicans believe that it will be the Democrats’ Waterloo. Eleven months from now we will know who is right.
Four races are worth watching, and if Democrats can’t win with the candidates they have, they will have every reason to write off the state in the future. Full story
December 9, 2013
It’s no secret that Mark Pryor is in a difficult race for a third term in Arkansas. The Democratic senator will likely face GOP Rep. Tom Cotton in a must-win race for Republicans, if they want to recapture the majority.
On one hand, it is somewhat surprising that the incumbent has already turned to social issues in his effort to avert forced retirement. But on the other hand, even though Sen. Barack Obama was talking about small town Pennsylvania with his 2008 comment about “clinging” to guns and religion, President Obama might be less popular today in a state such as Arkansas. And Pryor needs social issues to declare his independence.
Pryor’s first ad of the cycle focused on guns.
October 21, 2013
Barack Obama received just 39 percent of the vote in Arkansas in the last presidential race, but that’s not stopping Democratic optimism in the Razorback State in 2014.
Even though next year’s midterm elections began as a referendum on the president, Democrats believe they can re-elect Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, hold the open governorship and take over at least one House district — particularly now that GOP Rep. Tim Griffin has announced his unexpected decision not to seek re-election.
Griffin’s 2nd District is the the most Democratic in Arkansas, but it’s all relative in a largely Republican state at the federal level. Obama received 43 percent in 2012 and 44 percent in 2008 in that district. John Kerry received nearly 48 percent there in 2004, which is just one piece of evidence of a higher ceiling for a white Democratic candidate. Full story
September 20, 2013
My colleague Kyle Trygstad nearly declared the end to the Senate recruitment season recently, but House strategists on both sides of the aisle still have their work cut out for them.
With a little more than a year before Election Day, Republican and Democratic operatives are searching for quality candidates in more than a handful of districts. Both sides want as many offensive opportunities as possible to keep the other side pinned down in their own territory.
Down 17 seats, Democrats need more GOP takeover opportunities to make up for any losses and so they don’t have to win all of the competitive seats to get back to the majority next November. Full story
July 11, 2013
This cycle, the South is dominated by competitive Senate races. That doesn’t mean there won’t be critical House races (including Florida’s 18th and 26th districts) or other interesting contests (such as the crowded Republican primary in Georgia).
Here are the top five races to watch in the South next year:
Arkansas Senate. Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, is one of the most vulnerable senators in the country, and he represents a state where President Barack Obama has never been popular. Republicans are likely to nominate Rep. Tom Cotton, who appears to be a rare breed in that he appeals to both the tea party and the establishment. If Republicans can’t defeat Pryor, they ain’t getting back to the majority anytime soon. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call Rating: Pure Toss-Up. Full story
June 14, 2013
Open seats are supposed to be opportunities. Without longtime incumbents on the ballot, these districts should be easier to takeover. But six months into the 2014 cycle, that just isn’t the case on the House side.
So far, there are 10 districts slated to be open seats because the member is running for higher office or retiring in 2014. Either President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney won all of them with at least 55 percent last year.
March 29, 2013
Correction, 2:12 p.m. | There probably isn’t a better demonstration of the nation’s partisan political polarization than the makeup of the Senate. Only 17 states have split delegations, while 33 states have either two Republicans or two Democrats (or two senators who caucus with the same party, in the case of independents).
Compare those numbers to the Senate makeup three decades ago, and the change is clear. After the 1982 elections, 24 states had split delegations, while 26 had two members of the same party.
Some of the changes show how state (and national) politics have evolved.
Thirty years ago, Kentucky had two Democratic senators, Walter Huddleston and Wendell Ford. But in 1984, Ronald Reagan carried the state by almost 20 points, running so strongly that he helped drag in an obscure GOP Senate nominee. That upset winner, Mitch McConnell, narrowly defeated Huddleston to begin the state’s transformation into a Republican stronghold in federal races. Full story