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So the latest polls to come out of Arkansas have been looking good for Senator Mark Pryor:

In this Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 photo, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., holds a pan of raccoon meat at the Gillett Coon Supper in Gillett, Ark. Pryor faces a challenge from Republican Tom Cotton in the 2014 election. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Although some of the polls are from Democratic-leaning groups and each of the polls find him with a razor-thin lead, the fact that a rough handful of surveys found Pryor in the lead is notable given that Pryor is considered one of the most endangered Democrats in the 2014 election cycle.

A pro-minimum wage hike organization released a new poll conducted by Opinion Research Associates showing Pryor with 48 percent support to Cotton with 38 percent of the vote. The pollster surveyed 400 likely voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. It was conducted from April 1 to April 8.

A Hickman Analytics poll on behalf of the Consumer Energy Alliance found Pryor leading Cotton 40 percent to 37 percent among 400 likely voters. That poll was conducted February 17 to February 20. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

A Talk Business-Hendrix College poll found Pryor leading Cotton 45.5 percent to Cotton with 42.5 percent with 8 percent undecided. In October the poll found Pryor with a one point lead, 42 percent to 41 percent with 17 percent undecided. The most recent Hendrix poll was conducted among 1,068 likely Arkansas voters between April 3 and April 4. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Another poll by the Anzalone Liszt Grove pollster on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee found a tight race with Pryor leading (albeit within the margin of error). That poll found Pryor leading Cotton 48 percent to 45 percent with 7 percent undecided. The Grove poll surveyed 600 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll was conducted from March 27 to April 2. - TPM, 4/15/14

This polling makes me feel cautiously optimistic.  Despite my own feelings towards Pryor, I still think he can win his race against Tea Party Congressman Tom Cotton (R. AR).  And even though I have mixed feelings about The Fix's political analysis I will say this one confirms what I've always believed; Mark Pryor is not this year's Blanche Lincoln (D. AR):

When Lincoln ran in 2010, she had to first survive a heated and expensive primary campaign against Bill Halter, who ran to her ideological left. And a review of the public polling from the end of that primary forward showed her consistently trailing now-Sen. John Boozman by double digits.

So what does Pryor have going for him? A robust coordinated campaign, a voter targeting effort Democrats feel good about and a well-known surrogate Democrats can turn to for support.

Former congressman Mike Ross (D) is running for governor this year. He's arguably the best Democratic gubernatorial recruit of the 2014 cycle. In addition, there are a pair of U.S. House races in the state that are potentially competitive. That's means a statewide coordinated Democratic effort on various levels that doesn't (and won't) exist in many other states -- especially states that tilt against Democrats.

Democrats also feel good about where they are in their data intensive efforts, microtargeting the voters they need to turn out and finding messages that will do just that.

Finally, while President Obama is woefully unpopular, former president and native son Bill Clinton is still a big draw in Arkansas. He headlined Pryor's kickoff event and can reasonably be expected to stay in the mix later this year.

In our most recent list of the 10 Senate seats most likely flip party control, Pryor has been displaced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) as the most vulnerable seat of 2014.

All that said, Pryor still faces a very tough road to reelection. Cotton is strong fundraiser with a compelling biography. He's an Iraq war veteran who is beloved by the tea party and the GOP establishment, which often don't see eye to eye. Pryor's vote for Obamacare still has the potential to sink him as does a national environment in which the President's image is not strong. Add in the barrage of money conservative outside groups like Americans For Prosperity are spending, and on the whole, Cotton is going to be tough to beat. - Washington Post, 4/15/14

And while Republicans may have landed a strong candidate in Cotton, he's still has some serious flaws:

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) was reportedly cleared of one House ethics complaint Wednesday, only to have another fired at him.

The first case was sparked by a Huffington Post article about radio interviews with Cotton in which the talk show host's remarks made it appear that the congressman was fundraising from the House grounds for his Senate race against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). If true, that would violate ethics rules.

The new case comes from a retired Arkansas state judge, who said he is concerned that Cotton may have broken ethics rules by failing to disclose pertinent information on his financial disclosure forms.

The Associated Press reported:

    A House ethics panel dismissed a complaint against Arkansas congressman and Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Tom Cotton that accused him of illegally soliciting donations during a radio interview at the U.S. Capitol, according to a letter released by his campaign Wednesday.

    The letter was released as Cotton faced a new ethics complaint from a former chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court accusing the freshman lawmaker of breaking House rules by not disclosing specific clients for whom he worked as a management consultant.

    The House Ethics Committee told Cotton in a letter dated March 13 that it had unanimously dismissed the complaint made in October by the state Democratic Party. The chief counsel for the committee and a spokeswoman for the Office of Congressional Ethics declined to comment, and the panel said in the letter that it did not intend to release the letter publicly.

    "As a result of its review, the committee unanimously voted to dismiss the matter, consistent with the recommendation in the OCE's referral," the letter said. "Therefore, the committee considers this matter closed."

The new complaint from the former Arkansas justice, Jack Holt, alleges that Cotton broke House ethics rules by not naming the clients to whom he had provided services worth more than $5,000 when he worked for consulting giant McKinsey & Company. - Huffington Post, 4/9/14

And while Cotton would like to hit Pryor with Obamacare, there's one issue he doesn't want to talk about:

The private option — the state's unique plan using Medicaid funds to purchase health insurance for low-income Arkansans — has provided coverage to 150,000 Arkansans (and counting). The funding mechanism for the private option is Obamacare, and repealing Obamacare is at the top of Rep. Tom Cotton's agenda. Repeal Obamacare, and the private option dies with it.

At today's presser, I asked Cotton about this.

"We would repeal Obamacare and replace it entirely with many reforms for our health care program," Cotton said. I asked whether he had a specific replacement plan which would cover all the folks who would lose their coverage if Cotton succeeded in repealing the law. He trotted out some tried-and-true Republican talking points which would do no such thing, such as allowing insurance to be sold across state lines. "We want every Arkansan, we want every American, to have quality, affordable access to health care," Cotton said.

Okay, but the thing is, Cotton offered no details on a plan that would cover the people that the private option does. Similarly, Cotton's platform offers repeal Obamacare + hand-waving.

As lots of folks have pointed out over the last month, Republican candidates are coming to terms with the fact that repealing Obamacare means that millions of people would lose their coverage — so they vaguely say they'll sweep in some replacement. Every American should have access to quality, affordable health care, says Cotton!  But the details never come, in part because, as one GOP aid put it, "As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act." Once you start dismantling Obamacare's pay-fors and policy mechanisms, you start diminishing coverage. At least Rep. Paul Ryan was honest enough to admit that repealing Obamacare means repealing the popular parts (and most of the provisions in the law are very popular), not just the unpopular stuff. That means a lot of people who have gained health insurance under the law would lose it.  

In short, unless and until Cotton offers a detailed plan to cover the 150,000+ Arkansans who have gained coverage under the private option, the impact of his policy stance would be that those folks would lose that coverage. - Arkansas Times, 4/13/14

And Pryor also landed a big endorsement that could also spark up another topic for Pryor to hit Cotton on

Senator Mark Pryor picked up a key endorsement today in his hotly contested race for re-election

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is backing the two-term incumbent democrat's campaign.

The group saying it sees a sharp contrast between Pryor and Congressman Tom Cotton on health care issues.

And while Senator Pryor says he'll continue to fight for medicare and social security he says he's encouraged that new numbers show the federal health care law is expected to cost less than projected.

"Look, this law's far from perfect, and I know we still have to go in and work on it and try to get some things right in it but when you look at something like CBO those numbers, it is encouraging that it looks like we're on the right track," says Pryor.

Senator Pryor also outlined legislation he's introduced that he says would help protect medicare from being privatized. - Arkansas Matters, 4/15/14

One of Pryor's biggest backers are Seniors and Pryor rejected the chained CPI early on.  Cotton has quite a history of voting to gut Social Security:

If you would like to donate and get involved with Pryor's re-election bid, you can do so here:

Originally posted to pdc on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 09:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Pushing back at the Grand Bargain, Social Security Defenders, and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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