Mark Pryor's Bid Different Than Blanche Lincoln's (AP Analysis)

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013 3:34 pm  

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. (left), and Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

Republicans, however, also appear to have cleared the field for Cotton. Unlike in 2010, when Republican Sen. John Boozman faced a crowded GOP primary in his successful effort to unseat Lincoln, Cotton appears unlikely to face a party fight for the nomination.

Instead, Pryor is threatened by a longterm campaign that national Republican groups are already investing in heavily as they GOP tries to take over the Senate. The groups include the Club for Growth, the conservative group that backed Cotton's congressional run and welcomed his Senate bid with a six-figure television ad buy portraying Pryor as too liberal for Arkansas.

Pryor says he isn't daunted by the race, comparing it to his successful 2002 effort unseat Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson and the 2008 campaign where the GOP identified him as a top target but was unable to field a challenger.

But Pryor faces a vastly different Arkansas politically than his first Senate bid 11 years ago. Republicans now control both chambers of the state Legislature, and Pryor is the lone Democrat in the state's Washington delegation.

Pryor seems determined to avoid falling into the same trap as Lincoln, who many observers said waited until it was too late in the campaign to buy air time to respond to attacks. He used his first ad to hit back against Mayors Against Illegal Guns for knocking his gun control votes, and his second ad attacked Cotton as he announced his own Senate bid.

He's also made it clear how much he's willing to fight for the seat, accusing Cotton of alienating Arkansans with his votes against an initial version of the Farm Bill, a student loan measure, the Violence Against Women Act and other measures since taking office.

"I don't know who he's voting for, but it's not the people of Arkansas," Pryor said shortly before Cotton announced his bid.

But with Cotton now in the race, he faces an opponent who's just as willing to go on the attack.

"If anyone has alienated the people of Arkansas, it's Mark Pryor," Cotton said.

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