Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Is Arkansas Really the Land of Opportunity for Democrats?

Pryor is vulnerable in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Pryor is vulnerable in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

In the Senate race, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor hopes to turn back a challenge from Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. The contest has already received plenty of ink locally and nationally, and Pryor is widely seen as the single most vulnerable senator seeking re-election next year.

Pryor has carved out a relatively moderate record, and he has already aired two TV ads affirming his support for gun owners’ rights and the role of the Bible in his life. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln got clobbered in 2010, and if Pryor can’t hold onto his seat next year, no Democrat can win a high-profile federal race in Arkansas.

But the Natural State also should see a competitive and lively gubernatorial race between two former members of Congress. Republican Asa Hutchinson, a former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is widely regarded as the favorite to win the GOP nomination, though he must first win a primary. In 2006, Hutchinson lost the gubernatorial race to the state’s current governor, Democrat Mike Beebe, who is not eligible to seek re-election.

The Democratic gubernatorial nominee will be former Rep. Mike Ross, who served six terms in Congress. He chose not to seek re-election in 2012. Ross, who also served in the state Senate, was a Blue Dog in Washington, and he cites his opposition to Obamacare and his consistently high ratings from the National Rifle Association to demonstrate that he is not a “national” Democrat.

In Cotton’s open 4th District, Democrats have recruited James Lee Witt, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a President Bill Clinton appointee. Witt ran Arkansas’ Office of Emergency Services before his FEMA appointment.

Republicans are headed for a primary in the 4th District, which was held by Ross before it was redrawn before the 2012 elections. State House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman has already entered the GOP race, but the state’s filing deadline is not until March 1.

Finally, Democrats are talking up their chances in the Little Rock-based 2nd District, which was left open when two-term Republican Rep. Tim Griffin shocked observers and announced that he would not run for re-election.

The district was Obama’s best in the state (though he drew only 44 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2012), and the combination of white urban voters — it’s the wealthiest, most educated and least rural district in the state — and African-Americans (who constitute 22 percent of residents, according to Politics in America 2014) gives Democrats a decent base that the party doesn’t have in many other parts of the state.

Democrats have rallied around the candidacy of Patrick Henry Hays, a former state representative who also served as mayor of North Little Rock. As in the 4th District, Republicans seem headed for a primary.

While Democrats have recruited some credible hopefuls and have opportunities in the state, it’s hard to believe that they have much of a chance of sweeping four competitive contests. This is a state where Barack Obama drew less than 37 percent of the vote in 2012 and just under 39 percent of the vote four years earlier. So where are their best opportunities?

The gubernatorial race would appear to be the Democrats’ best chance.

Ross did have a reputation as a moderate Democrat during his years on Capitol Hill, and he spent more than a decade representing one quarter of the state in Congress. More importantly, he is running for a state office, not a federal one, and since voters evaluate candidates differently when they are seeking non-federal office, Ross would seem to have the best chance of the bunch.

After Ross probably comes Pryor. Senate candidates generally get more attention and spend more money than House hopefuls, and that means voters know more about them. Pryor’s name is a good one in the state, and he has already run ads defining himself and painting a picture for voters of Republican Cotton. If the Democrat’s campaign can succeed in defining the choice facing voters, he has a chance to win.

The two House seats look to be a heavy lift for Democrats.

With candidates for governor and senator spending heavily in all media markets (and super PACs advertising in the Senate race), House candidates will have trouble competing for attention. That should be particularly the case for Witt in the 4th District, which is the state’s largest House seat geographically.

Through his connection with Clinton, Witt was something of a star in Arkansas politics. But the state has changed over the past dozen years, and the 4th District, which was made more Republican when it was redrawn to reach up into the very Republican northwest quadrant of the state, looks very hard for any Democrat.

Demographically, the 2nd District looks like a better opportunity, but it is heavily polarized and a challenge for any Democrat in a difficult environment.

Of course, Democratic chances for both House seats would improve if nasty GOP primaries in one or both were to produce weak nominees. But we won’t know about that until the primary on May 20 or the runoff on June 10.

  • teapartyidiots

    I think Ross wins, and Pryor is 50/50.

    • robertthomason

      Your prediction is very possible. State elections can turn on issues that favor a “traditional” southern Democrat. I think Pryor has a tough time getting out from under the baggage of his national party, but right now 50/50 is probably a fair assessment. The two House races will be interesting to watch as the candidates will determine how the national campaign issues impact their races. A traditional Arkansas Democrat could be more competitive than people think.

      • Wcharnock

        A traditional Arkansas democrats still votes with left wing extremist when they get to Washington….Arkansans…smarter than that

        • teapartyidiots

          Your spelling and grammar indicates that’s untrue.

          • lio

            you have a big mouth for an idiot Do you still pray to the useless idiot Barack Obama ?

        • guvhog

          Which is why Arkansas turns more Red with each passing year.

        • robertthomason

          I don’t live in Arkansas. I live in the deep south and most voters in this area (the south) are Jacksonian in their political views. If the Republican candidates are of the cocktail party persuasion and not the tea party, then traditional southern Democrats have a shot at winning. See the incumbent governor of Arkansas. Arkansas Democrats who vote the Harry Reid line are by definition not “traditional.”

    • sunflower

      I’m from AR, and I disagree. Pryor is finished. He’s polling at 37% and Cotton really is a great candidate. The people in AR love that guy. I think the Gov race is a toss up (both guys are disliked) and contrary to CW, the Dems probably have the advantage in both house races. The 2nd CD is GOP in Presidential races but it is actually tough for a Republican to carry against a good Dem candidate. The 4th is also tougher for the GOP than it appears, and Witt has the profile to win there. The AR GOP also has a penchant for nominating complete buffoons as well. I think it’s very very possible the Dems carry the Gov and house races, but Pryor is done.

      • Lamb Chop

        After that absolute fiasco of a 2012 presidential election, why is no one factoring in the fraud factor in the 2014 Senate races?

        • teapartyidiots

          You mean anonymous stopping Karl Rove?

          • Lamb Chop

            Translate into English, libturd.

          • teapartyidiots

            Stupid miserable bagger. I hope your daughter gets pregnant by someone non white.

          • lio

            Teapartyidiots sounds like another liberal racist hypocrite. You probably rape women and talk about the ” War on Women”

          • teapartyidiots

            I’m a woman you idiot.

          • lio

            You also sound like a five year old.

          • Rich-3

            You sound like one fine woman there. You got the name, so wear it proudly.

          • Rich-3

            Sounds like a racist, sexist comment. Do you hate yourself?

          • teapartyidiots

            No, I just hate you and everyone like you. I’ve decided to as disgusting as you mouth breathing inbred morons, since that’s all you understand.

          • Rich-3

            LOL, I think you hate yourself and that is ok. The hardest part like any other addiction is admitting to it So let it go. Look in the mirror and tell yourself the truth and you will feel better.

          • teapartyidiots

            Um, no. I don’t hate myself. I hate controlling, patriarchal pieces of human excrement who think I should shut up and take my constantly pregnant belly back into the kitchen.

          • Rich-3

            LOL, are you on meds? If not maybe you should be. You really sound like one scary woman that no one has prolly ever come within 50 feet of in the first place. Maybe that is your problem. You are so upset at being looked over that you are transferring that hate onto people you think have overlooked you in the past. That was a free diagnosis.

          • teapartyidiots

            Nobody’s overlooked me, and I guarantee you that my IQ is double yours.

      • teapartyidiots

        Ok, that makes sense. I didn’t know much about the House races because it’s so local.

  • blade007

    Pryor/Obama is gone !!!
    “if you like your health insurance you can keep it ” . EPIC LIE !!!

  • lio

    This is so Pollyannish. Stu Rothenberg is an idiot. This is the sixth year of a pretty unpopular president. In 2013 the republicans actually did well in swing and democratic territory down ballot ( Im talking Upstate NY and Long Island New York). He actually thinks Dems have a shot at gains in a state that has completely lurged away from them in even the best Democratic elections. This website is getting a little too stupid for me.

    • teapartyidiots

      Um, no they didn’t. There are like, three Republican reps left in NY dumbass.

      • lio

        Hey trashy little girl. Im talking DOWNBALLOT in the Suburbs of NY in 2013 ( commissioner, mayoral, district level) Republican outperformed 2009 significantly. Grassroots level performance is an indication of how the midterms are going to swing. It doesn’t bode well for Dems in places like Arkansas. Just look at DOWNBALLOT Democratic performance in Virginia in 2005 and how well they did 2006.

  • valwayne

    Sen Pryor voted for Obamacare. He participated in LYING to, and Defrauding the American people, to cram it down our throats. He can also pretend to support the 2nd amendment all he wants, but if he is reelected Harry Reid and Obama control the White House and the Senate, and they want to gut the 2nd amendment and ban all gun ownership throughout our nation. A vote for Pryor or any Democrat in 2014 is the same thing as a vote for Obama and Harry Reid, a LEFT WING Democrat Senate, and a VOTE for Nancy Pelosi. If you vote for a Democrat Governor they will support Obama on Obamacare and gun control. If you vote for a Democrat Representative candidate for the House you are voting to put Nancy Pelosi in control of the House. Those democrats will LIE to you. They will pretend to be Republicans while running for election, but if they are elected they insure that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi run our national Government. DON’T do it. Obama LIED, PRIOR LIED, every Democrat in this country LIED. In 2014 if you love Obama, Pelosi, and Reid vote for a Democrat. If you don’t you have to vote to kick every stinking LYING Democrat to the curb. If the democrat running is your own brother or sister, unless you want Obama, Pelosi, and Reid running our nation don’t vote for them. Its that simple.

    • Lamb Chop

      All the Republicans need to win is simple: A picture of Pryor and below it, the sentence: He Was A Good German.

    • teapartyidiots

      I can’t wait until they shove that ultrasound wand in so hard it get stuck.

  • sunflower

    Wrong, Stu. Pryor is done, but I would consider Hays the favorite in the 2nd CD and Witt is probably at least 50/50 in the 4th. In the 2nd, the GOP has to get 60%+ outside of Pulaski unless the Dems run a complete idiot. Hays is likely going to pick up that seat. Ross is a buffoon and no one likes Hutchinson at all, so the Gov race is probably a toss up.

  • All_American

    No they can not win the republicans will

  • Eisenhower

    I’m gonna have to side with the other commenters on here when it comes to Pryor. His connection to the very unpopular national party, the ACA, his disconnect with his own constituents, and he’s going against a pretty popular candidate make his chances unlikely. When he had to explain in a T.V. ad to the voters his belief in the bible….yeah he’s screwed. But, I suppose anything can happen in 11 months.

  • Aaron

    And don’t forget about voter fraud, which always seems to help dems, oddly enough. Anyone recall a Republican losing in the last 50 years who suddenly found more votes in car trunks and other locations that just so happened to be the right amount to win and comprised 100% votes for one candidate against the laws of statistics?

  • Crutch

    Pryor: “You can keep your plan and your Doctor. Period.” Bye Bye!

  • DannyE

    With the obamacare millstone around their neck, not so much.

  • Lance Sjogren

    Pryor voted for the extremist Senate immigration bill. He’s toast.

  • gmonsen

    Not sure what the point of this article is other than some nondescript summary of the races. The Democrats are likely to lose it all, though they might have a prayer randomly somewhere in there? Not on your life. When you look at the national map, we are getting to the point where its all red excepting California and New York. Sure, all 50 people in New Hampshire may still be democratic and Illinois is still Illinois. There are some minor exceptions, but, if the urban ghettos no longer could vote, the entire country would be red.

    • gso

      Illinois will be blue as long as the dead can vote.

    • Tipsy McStagger

      In what fantasy world is this?

      • gmonsen

        Tipsy McStagger? No idea, my friend.

    • teapartyidiots

      Iowa has no major cities, and is a blue state. Um?

      • Rich-3

        You mean a state that has a republican governor and a republican senator?. You talking about that Iowa?

        • teapartyidiots

          And a split legislature and a Democratic senator. It’s purple-blue.

          • Rich-3

            You are the one who said it was blue. It is an up for grabs state that is split. Sounds like you fit your name there.

          • gmonsen

            I don’t think the tea party would acknowledge him as one of their own…

          • Rich-3

            So true but she would wildly accepted with those on left. She has that hate thing going real good and they really love that in their sheeple. She reminds me of an old GHWB story where he was in a car leaving an event and one of those radical feminists was beating on the window saying to keep your hands off her vagina and he said he looked up and thought who would want to touch it.

          • teapartyidiots

            Drop dead. I hope someday you’re homeless and I can spit on you.

          • Rich-3

            I bet if you could choke that person in the mirror you see everyday, you would. You most likely kick your dog and from your remarks you spit on homeless people. Mao would be so proud.

          • teapartyidiots

            No, I help homeless people, I just wouldn’t if I knew it was you.

          • Rich-3

            Sounds like you calmed down. Did you just pop some meds?

  • blfdjlj

    arkansas has shifted far to the right over the past decade, going from a 3-1 democrat congressional delegation to a 3-1 republican one and now a 4-0 one. Small chances for Pryor here.

  • brock2118

    It’s gonna be rough for dems in 2014 in Arkansas. They should probably just bring back Bill Clinton to run for Senate. He could spend more time in Little Rock getting his old buddies the Highway Patrol to procure for him again.

  • Rick Turner

    Pryor was the deciding vote for Obamacare. End of discussion. PERIOD……

    • teapartyidiots

      Actually that was Ben Nelson, but I know reading is hard for baggers.

      • http://www.SuperiorPolitics.Com/ SuperiorPoliticsDotCom

        Spoken like a true D-bagger.

        • Wcharnock

          Spoken like a true Demoloser

          • http://www.SuperiorPolitics.Com/ SuperiorPoliticsDotCom

            Did you not read my statement a little closer? I think you picked at the wrong side. lol

  • Southernationalist

    Mark Pryor Obama should start packing his bags, along with his pal Mary Landrieu Obama. There are not enough mindless, bloc voting Black voters in either state to put these Marxists over the top.

  • paulinpittsburgh

    Yeah and Joe Manchin ran ads in WV claiming he was pro-gun as did numerous Democrats in Colorado … people who care about that issue and other issues related to Constitutional liberties have woken up to the fact that it’s not the individuals who are the problem it’s the Democrat Party itself and so long as they have majorities in part of the government our rights will always remain under a constant threat.

    Pryor can say anything he wants and it won’t matter because he’s a Democrat and people understand now that Democrat = anti-Second Amendment, anti- freeedom, anti-privacy.

    • Rich-3

      Yea, Manchin was shooting Obamacare posters in WV but still is a lap dog for the dems

    • Purely Independent

      Even money is good that Manchin changes parties if the Repubs take the Senate in ’14 and the WH in ’16

  • KatieHater

    Come on Arkansas. Put a nail in the democrats coffin in Arkansas. Clean house!

  • rockinrobinhood

    LOL, Dems are toast in Arkansas, just as they are in all the South.

  • skyking1000

    The humorous part of Pryor’s website is the lack of party affiliation shown. I guess being associated with the Democrat party too much is toxic.

    • robertthomason


  • appman

    End of the line for more libbers. Thanks to Obummercare and the debt.

  • MaleMatters

    Democrats may have little to worry about everywhere. We’re in a new era.

    “Why Barack Obama Won Twice”

  • KenH

    The Libertarian Party candidates, to be chosen in February, may do surprisingly well in Arkansas in 2014. Neither of the two dinosaur parties will probably end up with especially exciting candidates in the gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races that will inspire any passion from very many voters.

  • Sean Andrews

    This, from the person who said, and I quote : ” the Republicans have zero chance to win back the house in 2010″

  • Socialism is Organized Evil

    Certainly, today’s liberalism is impelled by the same maniacal death force as its socialist, Marxist, and communist ancestors.

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