The big guns came out Saturday night to help incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor formally launch his re-election effort for 2014.
At a Little Rock Statehouse Convention Center gathering of nearly 600 supporters, former Pres. Bill Clinton, Gov. Mike Beebe and former U.S. Senator David Pryor, father of Mark, rallied the troops.
Pryor’s seat is considered a high target for takeover by national Republicans who are aiming to take control of the U.S. Senate. Several prominent in-state Republicans including Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, Cong. Steve Womack and Cong. Tom Cotton are all eyeing a potential challenge, but no one has stepped forward and officially announced.
There will be no shortage of funding for the coveted seat. Pryor, who is seeking a third term, has already been the target of conservative group independent expenditures who have used critical advertising tying him to an unpopular Pres. Barack Obama.
National Democrats view the seat as a pivotal fight and have indicated a willingness to pour significant resources into the race.
In a recent Talk Business-Hendrix College poll, Pryor’s job approval rating was more favorable than unfavorable (41.5%-35%), but independent voters – a key swing group for any candidate – expressed reservations regarding the incumbent Senator.
Hendrix College political scientist Dr. Jay Barth noted, “Democrats support him by a 62-12% margin, but a plurality of both Republicans (by 47-33%) and Independents (by 42-35%) disapprove of his performance. Pryor is lagging in both the First and Second Congressional Districts, both traditionally strong areas for Democrats.”
Pryor, 50, has been viewed as a moderate Democrat and frequently votes across party lines and has a reputation as centrist and consensus-builder.
He won re-election in 2008 with no GOP challenger. However, in 2010 and 2012 Republicans made substantial gains in local and state offices in large part by linking Democrats at all levels to Pres. Obama, who consistently polls below 40% in approval in the state.
Also in attendance at the event was former Cong. Mike Ross, who may be re-considering a bid to run for Arkansas Governor.
Ross told the Associated Press, “Dustin McDaniel getting out of the race has left a huge void which clearly none of the other candidates are filling or I wouldn’t be getting all these calls from every corner of the state,” Ross told The Associated Press, the first time he’s said publicly he was looking at the race. “I’m humbled by that and I feel a sense of duty and responsibility to the people of this state to at least reconsider my decision and I’m doing that.”
Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter has announced he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for Governor. Halter will make his first major public policy announcement of his campaign on this week’s edition of Talk Business, which airs Sunday night at 10 pm on Fox 16.
On the Republican ticket, former Cong. Asa Hutchinson and former U.S. Senate candidate Curtis Coleman have announced they’ll challenge for the Governor’s seat.