story by Michael Tilley
A recent poll shows U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, gaining ground in his bid to unseat Democrat U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor. The poll results also show the Arkansas’ governors race to be tied up, and U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, with an advantage in the race for lieutenant governor.
On Feb. 12, Little Rock-based Impact Management Group polled 1,202 likely Arkansas voters to ask their opinions on the candidates for U.S. Senate, Arkansas governor and Arkansas lieutenant governor. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.83%. Poll questions also included voter opinions on Arkansas’ private option plan.
In the U.S. Senate race, Cotton had 46% support from poll respondents and Pryor had 42%. This is a favorable shift for Cotton compared to an Oct. 24 Impact Management poll that had Cotton at 43% and Pryor at 41%.
Pryor was supported by 84% who identified as Democrats, and 8% from Republicans. Cotton was supported by 81% who identified as Republicans, and 7% from Democrats. Also, Cotton leads Pryor, according to the Impact poll, in all four of Arkansas’ Congressional Districts.
Clint Reed, a partner at Impact Management Group, said the national brand for the Democrat Party is hurting Pryor in Arkansas.
“As the ad war begins to ramp up and the debacle of the of the Obamacare rollout nationally, it appears that Cotton is gaining ground with the electorate. Cotton leads in each congressional district and leads in the large Little Rock media market (+9),” Reed wrote in an analysis for The City Wire. “Cotton’s lead among self identified independent voters (+30) signifies just how bad the national environment is for Democrats.”
RACE FOR GOVERNOR
The contest between Republican and former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson and Democrat and former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross to succeed a term-limited Gov. Mike Beebe (D) remains locked in a statistical dead heat.
Impact Management poll results show 42% of respondents support Hutchinson and Ross, with 17% undecided.
Among Democrats, Ross has 79% support and 10% support among Republicans. Among Republicans, Hutchinson has 75% support and 7% support among Democrats. Hutchinson does hold a lead over Ross (47% to 29%) among self-identified Independent voters. That could be an important element in the tight race, Reed said.
“Our polling shows this race continues to be a very close race. Hutchinson continues to lead by a wide margin among independent voters (+18) which will be the key voting block heading into the fall election,” he explained.
Hutchinson and Ross also split support among Arkansas’ Congressional Delegations.
RACE FOR LT. GOVERNOR
The race for Arkansas’ second highest elected position, but a position that comes with few duties and relatively little power, has taken on a higher-profile than normal. Former Lt. Gov. Mark Darr (R) was pressured to resign after an ethics investigation discovered he misspent more than $44,000 in campaign and state funds.
Democrat and Little Rock businessman John Burkhalter announced June 11, 2013, he would run for the office. Burkhalter and Ross held a joint press conference June 15 to endorse each other. Ross said if elected he would name Burkhalter as chairman of a new cabinet focused on economic development. Burkhalter is the only Democrat to announce for the office.
But it’s been chaotic on the Republican side. Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, said he would run for the office, but on Feb. 8 backed out after learning that Griffin would enter the race. Rep. Debra Hobbs, R-Rogers, exited her bid for governor to enter the lieutenant governors race. Also, Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, has said he will run for lieutenant governor.
U.S. Rep Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, previously announced he was retiring from Congress to spend more time with his family. However, he announced Feb. 13 he would enter the race for lieutenant governor.
The Impact Management poll, conducted three days before Griffin officially entered the race, show that 45% of likely voter respondents support Griffin, compared to 30% for Burkhalter.
“Congressman Tim Griffin is the clear front runner in the race for Lieutenant Governor. Griffin holds a substantial lead most notably across each congressional district and has a 5 to 1 advantage among independent voters,” Reed said.
Following are the breakdowns among the Congressional districts.
GENDER GAP, TURNOUT
The Impact Management poll also shows a split among men and women on candidate support in the statewide races surveyed. For example, female support for Pryor was 48% and 37% for Cotton. Support among men for Pryor was 35%, but was 56% for Cotton.
“The telling story from the Governor and Senate race data is that the gender gap exists. Both Republican candidates (Cotton and Hutchinson) have double digit leads among men while the Democrat candidates (Pryor and Ross) have double digit leads among women. This will be a significant part of the storyline moving forward on who can successful appeal across that gap,” Reed said.
The tight races, especially for the U.S. Senate and Arkansas Governor, will result in a more focused need than normal for all campaigns to focus on getting their supporters to the polls, Reed said.
"The Governor and Senate races, even though nearly nine months away, are all about one thing: Who can get their voters to the polls,” Reed said in his analysis. ‘We always say that voter turnout is key to winning every election, but this polling data indicates that we are looking at one of the largest get-out-the-vote programs in Arkansas’ history.”
Link here for the PDF report of poll results from Impact Management.