story by Ryan Saylor
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, reported strong fourth quarter fundraising numbers in his bid for the U.S. Senate on Thursday, the second quarter in a row he has outraised incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.
Cotton reported raising $1.24 million during the fourth quarter of 2013, outpacing Pryor's $1.1 million raised during the same period last year.
Cotton's fundraising advantage did widen over Pryor, a vulnerable Democrat seeking a third term in the Senate. During the third quarter, Cotton — a Tea Party favorite who has sometimes voted opposite the other Republican members of the Congressional delegation — outraised Pryor by only about $5,000. The number in the fourth quarter has ballooned to about a $150,000 fundraising advantage.
Justin Brasell, Cotton's campaign manager, said the growing momentum in Cotton's fundraising is evidence that Cotton is connecting with voters on a very personal level.
"Arkansans are supporting Tom Cotton because he shares their values," he said. "Washington has clearly changed Senator Mark Pryor, causing him to vote 95% of the time with President Obama and his agenda that is hurting small businesses and driving up the cost of healthcare for working families. Arkansas doesn't need a Senator who will hand his voting card to Harry Reid whenever he asks for it."
While Cotton grew his fundraising advantage during the fourth quarter, he still stands at a significant disadvantage when it comes to cash on hand. The Cotton campaign has $2.2 million cash on hand, while Pryor is sitting on a war chest of $4.2 million.
When Pryor released his fourth quarter numbers on Jan. 13, his campaign manager made a point of highlighting Pryor's cash-on-hand advantage after 2013 that saw Pryor raise a staggering $5.3 million in order to keep his Senate seat, a sign that the 2014 Arkansas Senate race will be among the most expensive in the nation as Democrats fight to keep control of the Senate.
"Heading into the election year, Mark (Pryor) will have every resource to remind voters about his record as a reliable and responsible voice for Arkansas families, while drawing clear contrasts with Congressman Cotton’s reckless agenda that puts his own interests ahead of Arkansans,” said Jeff Weaver, Pryor for Senate campaign manager.
But as then-U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Rogers, proved during his late entrance in the 2010 Republican primary that saw him sweep the field and eventually unseat U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., low fundraising figures do not necessarily mean a candidate is weak.
When Boozman entered the race in January 2010, he transferred the $305,000 he had raised for his House re-election to his Senate race. Just days before his announcement, Lincoln announced raising $1.3 million during the fourth quarter of 2009, leaving her with a $5 million campaign account heading into the 2010 race.
Lincoln went on to lose to Boozman by more than 20 points in the general election — 57.9% for Boozman versus 36.95% for Lincoln.
Even with being at a disadvantage in cash-on-hand, Cotton's campaign has moved forward in its efforts to unset Pryor recently opening a campaign headquarters in Little Rock to house the small campaign staff and a growing army of Cotton loyalists volunteering to get the word out about Cotton to a state that may not be familiar with the first term Congressman.
"Your campaign headquarters is where your volunteers come to help out and you can't win a large statewide race like this without a strong grassroots volunteer base of support and that's what Tom (Cotton) has and we're growing it every single day," Communications Director David Ray told The City Wire at Cotton's campaign headquarters grand opening on Jan. 11.
No candidates have announced primary challenges to Cotton or Pryor, making each their party's presumptive nominees.