Pryor: The Undecided Senator

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 72 views 

In the last election cycle, we heard a lot about the undecided voter.  You might remember that Saturday Night Live had a great sketch on this odd group that could not make up their minds on two drastically different candidates.

But it seems here in Arkansas we have an undecided Senator.  The last remaining Democratic member of the Arkansas delegation – Sen. Mark Pryor just can’t make up his mind on several issues.

When he was asked about same sex marriage by Larry Henry of 5 News, he said, “I would put me down in the undecided category.  I did talk with some friends of mine in the gay and lesbian community over the last week or so. We talked about this issue. We also talked about a question I received in the office not too long ago where they asked whether being gay was a choice or whether you were born that way.  I told them, I said, ‘Honestly I’ve never really thought a lot about that.’ Maybe a lot of people think about that. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about that. But one of the things I hear from them is they feel very strongly that it’s not a choice for them, and I respect that. I’m not going to dispute that. I appreciate that, and I appreciate their honesty.  For a lot of these people they just really opened their heart to me and talked about some of the struggles they’ve had over the years with their sexual orientation. I respect that and appreciate their patience, and I appreciate their honesty.”

Apparently, he got a backlash from that answer so he called them back and clarified that he is “opposed to gay marriage,” but said he was undecided if “gay couples should receive benefits if they work for the federal government.”

Uh, okay.

In the same interview, he also sought the middle of the road on the issue of abortion.  When asked about this issue, he said, “I’ve always leaned toward the pro-life side of that.”  But he went on to add, “I certainly respect that there are circumstances where the woman should be able to make that decision.”

So he is against same sex marriage but thinks perhaps we should extend federal benefits to gay couples…maybe.  And he leans pro-life,  but think a woman should be able to make that decision…sometimes.

This “be everything to everyone” mentality sounds a lot like former Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s strategy and we know how that turned out for her.  Perhaps this is why The Rothenberg Report rates Sen. Pryor as the most vulnerable incumbent Senator seeking re-election next year along with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu.  They write…

Moreover, it was less than three years ago that moderate Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln lost re-election in what admittedly was a bad Democratic year. Still, the size of Lincoln’s defeat — she drew only 36.9 percent of the vote — is a stark reminder of the challenges any Democrat now faces in this state.

Either the 4th District’s Cotton or 3rd District Rep. Steve Womack seems to be the mostly likely Republican nominee against Pryor, and GOP strategists seem confident that either one can and will beat the senator. Democrats, on the other hand, are clearly worried about both Pryor and Landrieu.

It’s a close call on who is more vulnerable, but I’d probably pick Pryor, especially if Cotton runs. The Harvard-educated Iraq veteran who worked for McKinsey would be an especially difficult opponent for Pryor, and the Democratic base in Arkansas appears to be evaporating quickly.