Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., announced he is officially challenging Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Tuesday, vastly improving Republican chances to win control of the United States Senate in 2014.
Home town favorite
Speaking at a community center in his small hometown Dardanelle, Ark., Cotton opened his speech by thanking his dad, who has “been the voice of Sand Lizard football for 25 years,” and his mom, who as a “teacher and principal at the Dardanelle schools for 40 years” has become “an expert on local family trees.” “I see a lot of familiar faces tonight: teachers, coaches, childhood friends, teammates, neighbors and mentors,” Cotton said. “And I owe you all a debt, too.”
Obama’s water boy
Cotton’s opponent, 10-year incumbent Mark Pryor, ran unopposed by a Republican in 2008 and has since felt free to take many unpopular votes for President Obama, including deciding votes for both Obamacare and the Senate’s recent immigration bill. Cotton has emerged as a leader on immigration enforcement, in particular, and Pryor’s vote for amnesty is sure to become a major issue in the general election.
One step closer to majority
A Harper Polling poll released Tuesday found that Cotton already had a slight edge on Pryor, 43 percent to 41 percent, even before he announced. As Cotton details Pryor’s strong history of supporting Obama’s agenda, Pryor’s 40 percent unfavorable rating will only rise.
If Cotton does defeat Pryor, Republicans would need only five other seats to secure a slim 51 vote Senate majority in 2014. With incumbent Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., retiring, and popular Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer bowing out of the Big Sky senate race, Republicans are now positioned to pick-up three open senate seats in states that Mitt Romney won handily (South Dakota and West Virginia being the other two).
Add Arkansas to the three open seats (giving Republicans 4 pick-ups), and now the GOP only needs to win two out of three of the other senate seats incumbent Democrats are defending in states Romney won in 2012 (Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C.).
The odds are still long, but if Republicans can keep landing five-star recruits like Cotton, the senate will be their’s to lose
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