This week’s Talk Business Arkansas program convened a panel for our political roundtable.

Talk Business bloggers Michael Cook and Jason Tolbert joined¬†Clinton School of Public Service Dean Skip Rutherford and moderator Roby Brock to¬†discuss the Arkansas Governor’s race and the U.S. Senate match-up.

In the Governor’s race, Cook said the recent endorsement by Gov. Mike Beebe (D) for Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mike Ross adds momentum to the Democrats’ efforts.

“It allows former Cong. Mike Ross to make the case that he’s going to be, in a way, serving Mike Beebe’s third term,” Cook said. “It’s not going to win the race for him, no doubt about it, but it does help him introduce himself to the voters of Arkansas.”

“That’s certainly what Mike Ross wants,” said Tolbert. “The question is will voters buy it. Is Mike Ross the same thing as Mike Beebe? I think he’s going to have a difficult time making that case. I think there’s a lot of differences between the two.”

Rutherford said he thinks the Beebe endorsement certainly clears the field for Ross and opens up Beebe’s political base for Ross’ adoption.

“I think where this one is significant is, if the field hadn’t already been cleared literally, it is now,” said Rutherford. “Secondly, it’s a signal from Beebe to his donors, to his fan base, that Mike Ross is my guy. That’s an early on signal. It will help Ross in fundraising.”

Republicans Asa Hutchinson, Rep. Debra Hobbs, and Curtis Coleman are vying for the GOP nomination.

The panel also discussed the U.S. Senate race, including whether or not the Sen. Mark Pryor (D) versus Cong. Tom Cotton (R) match-up will be a matter of choosing between two candidates or a simple referendum on Pryor.

“No matter how hard Sen. Pryor tries, this is going to be a referendum on him,” Tolbert said. “This is the first time he’s stood for re-election since his vote on Obamacare. Democrats don’t like to talk about Obamacare, but he hasn’t stood for re-election since he cast that vote.”

“I think it’s going to come down to a choice of two candidates. Both of these candidates are going to do their best to disqualify the other one,” Cook said. “I think it’s a toss-up at this point in time.”

Rutherford said Cotton will put Obama at the center of the debate, but Pryor might be better off to talk about the post-Obama political world.

“Cong. Cotton is going to try to make this about Barack Obama,” said Rutherford. “If Sen. Pryor were smart, he’d make it about who’s going to be President in 2016.”

You can watch the full interview, which also includes discussion about the Lt. Governor’s race in the video below.

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