Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service and a long-time Arkansas politico, says he’s not convinced that Arkansans are completely tuned in to the 2014 election cycle, including the high-profile U.S. Senate race.

“Most people aren’t focused on the race yet. We’re political groupies, we’re political animals, but for the average Arkansan, this is a long time between now and November,” Rutherford said on this week’s Talk Business & Politics.

Rutherford, a former aide to Sen. David Pryor, said he sees the 2014 Senate match-up between incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Pryor and Republican Cong. Tom Cotton as a much different environment than the 2010 cycle that pitted Democrat Blanche Lincoln against Republican John Boozman.

“I think unlike Lincoln-Boozman, in which that race was really about Blanche Lincoln, I think Cotton has got some pretty extreme votes that he’s going to have to work on. I think it’s going to be significant and I think he’s going to be pounded on,” Rutherford said.

He cited votes involving Medicare privatization, violence against women, student loans, the Farm Bill, and hurricane disaster relief as potential weapons for the Pryor campaign to use against Cotton. Talk Business & Politics host Roby Brock suggested that Cotton had already weathered early attack ads on several of those topics, yet Cotton still remains viable, if not in the lead, in early polling.

“I think Cotton has gotten himself into a position that probably has made his victory, or a chance of a victory, much tougher than it could have been,” said Rutherford. “Boozman, on the other hand, against Blanche Lincoln – let Blanche Lincoln be the record. I think in this particular case, Cotton has made himself the record.”

Another major factor in the Senate race will involve Pres. Barack Obama, who has been front-and-center in the last two election cycles in which the Arkansas GOP has made historic gains. Will Obama be the “X” factor in 2014?

“Obama is a factor in this race because clearly he’s a very polarizing candidate, particularly in Arkansas,” said Rutherford, who also noted that there are lingering wounds amongst some state Democrats over Obama’s challenge of Hillary Clinton in 2008.

“This is not just the Republicans pounding on Obama, there’s a lot of Democrats who never forgave Obama for challenging Hillary,” he said.

Rutherford also explained how presidential papers are released through the Clinton Library – a controversial story from earlier in the week – and he highlighted two Republican legislators that he feels have a significant political future in Arkansas.

Watch the video of his interview and web extra in the clip below.

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Talk Business Staff