Robert Coon, Blake Rutherford Weigh In On Tuesday's Arkansas Primary

by Robert Coon, Blake Rutherford and Lance Turner  on Wednesday, May. 21, 2014 3:14 pm  

(Photo by Beth Hall)

Lance: And hey! Ross has come out swinging today with his first post-primary ad. Let's take a look, shall we?

Robert: The new Ross ad touches on a few good points - mainly his small-town roots and focuses on helping the middle class. I think those parts of the ad are well presented and have some legs.

But I'm not sold on the effectiveness the attacks on Hutchinson. The "jobs to China" message may resonate with the old labor union industrial protectionist crowd, but I doubt it will have broad impact on the average voter. The DC lobbyist "boogie man" charges are fairly predictable and hollow - not to mention hypocritical given that Ross himself worked as a lobbyist before his gubernatorial run.

Blake: The polls have shown Ross consistently trailing Hutchinson, so I suppose this is an effort to try and create some contrasts.

I'm not sure it is the most effective ad, particularly since -- you're right, Robert -- Ross first opted out of the governors race to take a job in governmental relations himself. Ross might have been better to focus on specific areas of Hutchinson's lobbying work that should trouble Arkansas voters, but I don't put a lot of stock in a general attack on becoming a lobbyist.

But I think Ross is on to something with contrast to his hometown roots and his ideas for education and middle class tax cuts. So the second half of the ad really works, I think.

Softening Cotton

Lance: And then there’s the U.S. Senate race. It’s already big and it’s going to get bigger. As much as Pryor has cheated to the right here and there, it still seems there’s a pretty clear choice for voters. What’s the endgame of this race — where does victory lie for these candidates?

Robert: The U.S. Senate race in Arkansas not only has a major impact on the balance of power in Washington, but it also has considerable implications for the long-term health and viability of the Democratic Party in Arkansas. Losing Pryor’s Senate seat would send a shockwave across the state from a political party standpoint, giving Republicans yet another example to argue that Arkansas is turning mostly red. 

Holding the seat and beating back a challenge from a GOP rising star, however, would give Democrats a much needed shot in the arm following the losses they took at the federal level in 2010 and 2012. It would also be somewhat of a setback for the GOP in Arkansas, considering the relatively weak political position Pryor started in.

In my view, victory for Pryor lies in his campaign’s continued ability to paint Cotton as out of touch, extreme and uncaring. That’s been one of the primary focuses of the campaign to date, and they’ve done a decent job of pushing that message so far.  To win, the Pryor campaign has to plant that seed of doubt in voters’ minds that electing Cotton is a risky proposition.  

For Cotton, I think victory lies in his ability to resonate with female voters. He’s a battle tested soldier with an impressive resume. If Arkansas voters haven’t learned that by now, they’ve got their heads in the sand. But that’s a hard image that requires considerable softening — especially with regard to women voters. 



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