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Why Arkansans will re-elect Mark Pryor

Having been born and raised in rural Oklahoma I’ve always had a tendency to gravitate towards moderate politicians.  “Good on God and Guns,” my father always says, two things that are very important to us folks in this part of the country.  It should be no surprise to anyone that closely follows American politics that the era of the moderate politician is dying and with it will go bipartisanship and a Congress that can actually solve more problems than it creates.  Among the handful of independent voices that are still left is US Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas who’s up for re-election next November.

Senator Pryor is Arkansas’ senior senator having served since 2003 and is the son of former Arkansas Governor and US Senator David Pryor.  Mark Pryor has a voting record that just seems to fit for representing Arkansas.  Pryor is a Christian, voted against restrictions on gun rights and serves as the Chair of two senate subcommittees – Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.  Ah yes, on paper or at first glance he might seem like that the perfect senator for Arkansas.  Serving as Chair of the Agriculture Committee, a committee that has overwhelming significance to the Arkansas way of life, should be the icing on the cake, sealing the deal for voters.  Despite this glowing record Senator Pryor is fighting for his political life in a ‘Citizens United’, hyper-partisan and extremely toxic political system.

Regardless of the current state of politics in our country and despite the millions being poured into Arkansas from out of state attempting to sour voters against Pryor, there are a serious of factors that will enable him to clinch victory from the jaws of defeat:

  1. Household name and proven record.  You hear pundits refer to him being a household name on a regular basis.  Name recognition certainly doesn’t mean what it used to in politics but in Arkansas folks still remember David Pryor and the Pryor family name brings with it a reputation of statesman-like public service that honest, God-fearing people crave in politics today.

  2. Fighter when it counts. There’s one thing we love in the South and that’s watching our hero overcome adversity.  Southerners love watching a fighter that many already counted out, scratch their way back again because they refused to quit.  Mark Pryor has this quality and when the chips are down, don’t be surprised to see Pryor at his best.

  3. 2010 midterm removed. I worked in Arkansas in 2010 and it was a tough year for a variety of reasons among them being that it was a voter’s first opprtunity to show that they didn’t approve of Barack Obama at the ballot box.  Yes, this next election is another midterm but we must judge 2014 on its own merits.  Arkansas voters took swift and overwhelmingly decisive action in 2010 by voting out strong and long-seated incumbents in what was their first chance to show how unhappy they were with President Obama and the DNC.  They got that chance again last year.  It’s true that in 2014 Senator Pryor will be at the top of the ticket but most Arkansans are intelligent enough to know that voting against Pryor isn’t voting against Obama and will do nothing more than cost them a valuable public servant and seniority in the United States Senate.

  4. Support from a couple of Arkansas’ favorite sons – Bill Clinton and Mike Beebe.  Even though it’s been a long time since President Clinton was on the ballot in Arkansas he still has an extensive amount of political capital to cash.  Arkansans’ remember the “comeback kid” rather fondly and everyone in the state has some first-hand story or unique anecdote about the former Governor and President.  Couple Clinton’s deep roots in the state with his strong fundraising and his ability to draw a record crowd and you’ve got a surrogate that lends some pretty significant political support.  Additionally, Democratic Governor Mike Beebe is finishing his second term and can lend his name to the cause without Pryor being a potential political liability.  Beebe cannot run for another term as governor and will not be on the ballot in 2014.  Although Governor Beebe is not as stylish and flashy as former President Clinton, Beebe is certainly a charmer and beloved Arkansas politician.  In 2010 when Democrats were posting record loses nationwide, Governor Mike Beebe carried all 75 counties in Arkansas, a political feat for the history books.

  5. Outside groups less effective.  There is no doubt that Senator Pryor feels the sting of the out-of-state money being spent to attack him, and it’s only going to get worse.  Despite the fact that post-Citizens United spending can tip the scales, especially when an incumbent is vulnerable, many of the groups that are attacking him are beginning to spread themselves thin after pouring every resource into their 2012 attempt to unseat President Obama.  There’s no doubt in my mind that their bank accounts will be filled to the top when they need it, considering the majority of these funds are legally ‘laundered’ down through various groups and organizations in an attempt to hide their source – a handful of millionaires and it’s not likely that Charles and David Koch types will go broke between now and next November.  Despite the money used to distort Pryor’s record, fake grassroots opposition and hog-tie him to Obama on every issue, the reality is that Arkansans may talk slow….but they ain’t stupid.  The people of Arkansas know now, even better than they did in 2010, that these groups aren’t local and that many things they say are outright lies, plain and simple.  Don’t be surprised if the out-of-state efforts to buy Pryor’s seat ends up backfiring.

There are many noteworthy reasons that Senator Pryor will pull out a victory but perhaps the most significant reason is that he simply must.  It’s often very easy to get bitter and jaded in the life of politics.  Political hacks often begin with such pure unalterable idealism with a ‘take-on-the-world’ attitude that motivates them to push forward and stand up for what’s right.  This once prominent quality will, more often than not, eventually fade and year after year and election after election operatives and pundits replace it with something cynical or jaded.  Despite this harsh dose of realism, I cannot help but to believe in the basic tenants of our democracy.  I know that Senator Mark Pryor is what’s best for Arkansas and this notion wasn’t realized based on any party affiliation or ideology.  Senator Pryor is best for Arkansas because he’s a fighter that stands up for what’s right without first checking the focus groups results or flavor-of-the-minute polls.  Senator Pryor is the unique politician that casts a vote based on belief, knowing full well the barrage of attacks that will come his way and that ultimately it could cost him his seat.  To me, Senator Pryor embodies the spirit of Arkansas – that streak of independence, those wholesome values and a willingness to serve, giving everything he’s got.  There’s no doubt that Arkansas has a leader in Mark Pryor and I truly believe they can see it, even through the cloud of distortion and million dollar ad buys.

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