On Wednesday, I spent the day traveling with GOP Senate hopeful Cong. Tom Cotton, who announced he would challenge Sen. Mark Pryor (D) on Tuesday.

Today, I’ll spend a big part of the day with Sen. Pryor as he makes rounds through central Arkansas on official business. On our agenda: an early morning TV interview on KARK, a meeting at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, and a jobs expansion announcement at Remington Arms.

As was the case yesterday, this will be a casual exercise complete with timeline posts and observations on the day’s events.

6:50 am – Little Rock. Pryor started his day on KARK Ch. 4 with an interview on the morning show. Host Matt Moseler asked Pryor if he was surprised that he was being challenged by Cong. Tom Cotton (R).

“It was the worst kept political secret in Arkansas,” Pryor said. “No, I was not surprised to see Cotton get in.”

Pryor once again defended his support for the Affordable Care Act, saying he was not second guessing his decision. “No, actually I’m not,” he said.

He highlighted a new instance of how he sees the health care law being of benefit to consumers. Hospitals now must have their quality outcomes ranked in a transparent manner. Pryor said Conway officials, who scored well on their quality measures, are using the rankings to promote their business.

“That’s huge because it creates consumer choice,” Pryor said.

The Senator also touched on the IRS controversy highlighting that later it was learned that liberal groups as well as conservative groups were targeted for audits. “The IRS should never play politics,” Pryor said.

He also said that his brand of politics, which he described as “bipartisan,” was attractive to voters.

“People tell me they like my approach to politics,” said Pryor, who noted he’s passed more than 60 bills in his Senate tenure. “I’m up there trying to find solutions.”

8:03 am – Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce in Little Rock. Pryor is talking about 90 business leaders from every corner of the state.

“There’s no better social program than a good job,” Pryor said.

He highlights the need for more inshoring of manufacturing jobs into the U.S. and Arkansas. Pryor said gridlock in the nation’s capital, which he has tried to break through, has created too much uncertainty in America and is dragging on the economy.

“I’m convinced that a lot of the partisanship in Washington is causing uncertainty in the economy,” Pryor said.

He added that recent economic data is showing gains. Factory activity is growing at a faster pace during the past two years, exports are up, home sales are improving, and Moody’s recently restored the country’s credit rating to AAA.

Pryor also said that new jobs announcements, like Bad Boy Mowers and Remington Arms, are more signals of an improving business climate.

Advocating for more domestic energy development, Pryor  said that while he’s not happy about the Mayflower oil spill, he still supports pipeline infrastructure as the safest, most reliable, most cost-effective transportation route for the nation’s fuel supply. He advocated an “all of the above” policy on energy production, saying he supports clean coal, natural gas, solar, and nuclear power development.

When asked about dredging parts of the Arkansas River from 9 feet to 12 feet, Pryor said there are “good meetings” with the Corps of Engineers taking place. He said he had little new to report on progress regarding the issue.

“No breaking news to report on it,” he said. “It would be huge for the state of Arkansas to get the 12-foot channel.”

Pryor warned that the national debt and deficit “continue to be a huge problem.” He wants to see a couple of initiatives aimed at making more of a dent in these issues.

He highlighted a recent report that showed the federal government owns 77,000 buildings that are not used or are underused. “In a smart way, we need to get those off our books,” he said.

Simpson-Bowles provided a blueprint for resolving the debt and deficit crisis, but the political will didn’t exist to move on it, Pryor said.

Pryor also supports a modernization of the federal regulatory system that he says hasn’t been reviewed in nearly 60 years. He and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are pushing legislation that would require federal agencies to do cost-benefit analyses and choose the least costly option to get done what they really want to do.  The legislation would also force federal agencies to define what statutory power they have to issue regulations.

Furthermore, he said that more investment in rural broadband must be made.

Towards the end of his chamber session, Pryor delicately alluded to his new Senate rival, Cong. Tom Cotton (R), although no one asked him a direct question about his campaign challenger.

Pryor referenced Cotton’s vote against the first Farm Bill when asked about the topic although he did not mention his name. Saying the House’s approved Farm Bill version was “bad policy and bad politics,” Pryor said combining the Farm Bill with the nutrition program known as SNAP is “about counting votes” and “it also makes good policy sense.” He does not see the House’s version of the Farm Bill going anywhere in the Senate.

“They [the House] passed something that is unpassable in the Senate,” he said.

“Tough times require tough decisions,” said Pryor. He said more elected officials need to stick their necks out politically. “That’s the kind of senator Ive always tried to be,” he said.

10:35 am – Lonoke.  Sen. Pryor joined Gov. Mike Beebe and representatives of Remington Arms Co. to announce a $32 million operations expansion that will create 60 new jobs.

Remington is the oldest gun and ammunitions maker in the U.S. It has been in Lonoke since 1969.

Pryor played up his hunting roots at the event. He and his son are avid hunters during many of the fall seasons.

“I have a Remington shotgun and I use Remington shells,” Pryor bragged. “As an avid hunter and gun owner, I’m particularly excited to help announce this expansion. Remington has been an economic engine in our state for years, and this will allow them to bring even more jobs and development to central Arkansas.”

A large crowd under a big tent braved 90-degree heat. Pryor, Beebe and other officials – which included legislators such as Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R) and Rep. Walls McCrary (D) – toured the Remington plant before leaving.

12:05 pm – Little Rock.  Pryor and I drove back from Lonoke and conducted an on-the-record interview that I’ll be sharing more of in the coming days.

For now, here is an extra for you:  the last question Pryor fielded from his State Chamber appearance earlier today centered on health care reform.  Pryor offered a spirited defense of his vote and why he thinks the law is working.  You can read those remarks here.

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Roby Brock
Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics. He can be reached by e-mail at Roby@TalkBusiness.net. Follow him on Twitter: @RobyBrock.