Since 12 year Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) was defeated three years ago by Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) in a 58-37% landslide, Republicans have licked their chops at the idea of turning a state recently represented in D.C. by two Democratic Senators into a state represented by two Republicans, all over the course of just four years.
Partly because of Sen. Lincoln's humiliating 2010 loss, Arkansas again looks like a top pick-up opportunity for the GOP in 2014, thanks to an eerily similar positioned Sen. Mark Pryor (D).
Like Lincoln before him, Pryor was elected to an Arkansas more amenable to southern moderate Democrats, having taken office in January 2003. And like Lincoln, Pryor's two previous Senate runs have been relative cakewalks, winning by an eight point margin in 2002, and 80% in 2008 (he was unopposed by Republicans). But also like Lincoln before him, Pryor finds himself facing talented Republican opposition at a time when Obama is VERY unpopular in the state, and not on the ballot.
In 2010, not only were Arkansans down on the federal government (74% described themselves as angry/dissatisfied with it, 25% were satisfied/enthusiastic about it), down on Obamacare (55% wanted to repeal it), and down on the Democratic Party (a 40/57% favorability rating, vs. 51/43% for the Republicans); they were also very disappointed with their President, giving him a dreadful 37/62% approval rating, with 47% "strongly" disapproving.
Unfortunately for Sen. Pryor (D), some things never change, especially in Arkansas.
They still hate Obamacare (pg. 11), still prefer Republicans to Democrats (pg. 3), and still aren't particularly fond of the President, OR the job he is doing:
|* denotes the survey measured Obama's favorability rating, rather than his job approval.|
Yet as daunting as the upcoming 2014 electoral environment appears for Sen. Pryor (D), he can point to at least ONE improvement over Blanche Lincoln: despite only polling in the low 40s, Pryor is performing MUCH stronger against his likely Republican challenger Tom Cotton, than Lincoln did against hers (now-Senator John Boozman). See the table below of all 2014 Arkansas Senate poll data to date:
|Data compiled from Huffington Post Pollster & Real Clear Politics.|
For all of his vulnerabilities, Pryor remains tied with Cotton in a polling field that has been dominated by Republican pollsters.
But more importantly, Pryor's head-to-head polling performance to date is much more impressive than pre-Republican Senate primary numbers for Blanche Lincoln against Boozman:
|Data compiled from Huffington Post Pollster.|
In case you missed it, Lincoln averaged just 35% to Boozman's 53% in early 2010 surveys, while Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton average an identical 41%. Furthermore, Boozman led Lincoln in every single survey pitting the two against each other, all the way until election day. Of the six 2014 Pryor vs. Cotton surveys to date, the men have split the lead evenly, three a piece.
Of course, none of this is meant to suggest that campaigns don't matter. They do, and any number of external factors could cause Sen. Mark Pryor to be triumphantly and decisively reelected to a third term, cause a virtual tie, or go the way of Lincoln.
But even more than that, it's important to stress that it's still EARLY - earlier, in fact, than Boozman vs. Lincoln polling even began during the last midterm cycle. And in the few 2009 surveys taken, incumbent Lincoln looked much stronger against the other Republican primary challengers than she ever did against Sen. Boozman.
Regardless, Mark Pryor is posting much stronger early numbers against his likely GOP challenger in the 2014 general election than Blanche Lincoln did against hers in 2010. Though, perhaps as a sign of how endangered Lincoln was then and Pryor is now, that's still not saying much.