An internal memo obtained by the Tolbert Report from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) gives insight as to how high of a priority it is placing on the Arkansas Senate race between incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor and Republican Rep. Tom Cotton.

Obviously, leaked internal memos should be treated with a grain of salt, but their emphasis on Pryor as the “Senator Most Likely to Lose in 2014″ is a bold statement considering the number of other races they are also targeting.

The memo compares the state of the race to former Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s unsuccessful re-election in 2010.

“Meet Blanche Lincoln 2.0… Mark Pryor has the name, has the money, has the Clinton machine, and is running for re-election in Arkansas, a state that proved those talking points won’t get you very far if you are fundamentally misaligned with the electorate,” writes Ward Baker, NRSC Political Director. “A quick historical refresher, Lincoln lost her seat by 21-points (despite outspending her opponent by more than 4x).”

The internal document also discusses the polling data that shows Pryor unable to get out of the low to mid 40’s and the growing generic advantage in the state.  It also makes an interesting comparison to Boozman that I have not really seen pushed yet.

“When John Boozman got into the race in 2010, he had raised nearly $700k and had over $500k cash on hand at the end of the first quarter of the election year. Today, six months before that same point in this election cycle, Tom Cotton has already raised over $2.2 million ($1.07 million this quarter, beating Pryor) and has approximately $1.8 million cash on hand.”

Full memo below…

October 18, 2013

MEMORANDUM

FROM:         Ward Baker, NRSC Political Director
TO:               Interested Parties
RE:               Mark Pryor: The Senator Most Likely to Lose in 2014
_______________________________________________

Meet Blanche Lincoln 2.0… Mark Pryor has the name, has the money, has the Clinton machine, and is running for re-election in Arkansas, a state that proved those talking points won’t get you very far if you are fundamentally misaligned with the electorate.

A quick historical refresher, Lincoln lost her seat by 21-points (despite outspending her opponent by more than 4x).

In 2010, Lincoln and her team were quick to point to her fundraising prowess as a strong indication that she was going to hold her seat despite being in a solidly red state. The FEC shows that she raised over $1 million in each quarter of 2009 and went into 2010 with over $5 million cash on hand – sums very similar to Mark Pryor’s fundraising operation which brought in $1.04 million (an amount lower than both his previous quarter and his challenger Rep. Tom Cotton). Then she lost by 21-points.

Some pundits like to point out the strength of Pryor’s name in the state. As a two-term Senator holding the seat his father once held for three terms (after serving as Governor), some say that the Pryors are an Arkansas institution. One could (and many did) have similar things to say about Blanche. She comes from a seventh-generation Arkansas farm family and became the youngest woman ever elected to the Senate in 1998; her name seemed to carry some heft in the state. Then she lost by 21-points.

We can’t forget that Mark Pryor has the Clinton machine behind him. But, Blanche Lincoln had the Clinton machine too. The former Senator first won her congressional seat in the same year that Clinton first won the Presidency, and he stood staunchly behind her re-election bid for the Senate in 2010. Then she lost by 21-points.

Fast forward to today and we find that the voters of Arkansas are unwilling to support Pryor. In every single poll that has been released on this race, Pryor cannot break out of the low 40s (yes, one of those shows him at 47% – but look closer, they include so-called “leaners” in that number, his actual support on that poll is at 43%).

Pryor now has to run in a state where a generic Republican candidate leads the generic Democrat by as much as 10 points in some polls, President Obama lost by 24 points and has nearly two-to-one disapproval (62% disapprove-34% approve). Moreover, in the last mid-term Senate contest in Arkansas (2010), 51% of the electorate described themselves as conservative and only 12% self-identified as liberal. In contrast, recent polling shows that 32% consider Pryor to be liberal while only 11% call him conservative.

Senator Pryor is completely out of step with his state.

And, in light of his recent efforts to defend ObamaCare and shut down the federal government… polling shows Pryor paying the political price for ignoring his constituents. In late September, the Senator’s approval was in tepid positive territory (45% approve-40% disapprove). But, as of one week into the shutdown, nearly half (48%) disapprove while only one-third (34%) approves of his job performance. This represents a net negative shift of 19-points for the Democratic Senator.

When you compare Tom Cotton’s campaign to that of then-Congressman Boozman, there are some similarities, and one big notable difference that serves to illustrate just how strong of a candidate Cotton is for the 2014 race.

When John Boozman got into the race in 2010, he had raised nearly $700k and had over $500k cash on hand at the end of the first quarter of the election year. Today, six months before that same point in this election cycle, Tom Cotton has already raised over $2.2 million ($1.07 million this quarter, beating Pryor) and has approximately $1.8 million cash on hand.

The Democrats have one playbook for Arkansas: Run the nastiest campaign possible against Congressman Cotton. They will call him ever name under the sun, insult him, insult his family, and try to undermine his resume.  It’s already started. The problem? Cotton’s actual resume.

Congressman Cotton is a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, his military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and Ranger Tab. And, he won his congressional seat by over 20-points in 2012. Cotton has devoted his life to serving the people of Arkansas and is fighting to ensure a better future for our kids and grandkids.

We’ve heard that Senator Pryor is a bit melancholy these days from folks around the Senate. We certainly understand why. Congressman Cotton’s strong performance in the polls and in fundraising, coupled with Senator Pryor’s notoriety as the most vulnerable incumbent this cycle makes clear that Arkansas is on a clear path to flip red in 2014.

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Jason Tolbert
Jason Tolbert is the moderator for his opinion blog, The Tolbert Report. He can be reached by e-mail at Jason@TolbertReport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TolbertReport.