Mark Pryor is dead in the middle. The senior Senator for Arkansas, in office for the Democrats for over a decade, is stuck in the middle of govtracks’ voting charts showing leadership and ideology. He’s as close to Republicans as a Democrat can get and smack in the middle in terms of leadership. You could put a big X right through his position and it would line up perfectly with all four corners of the chart. Why does this matter? Because Tom Cotton has been to all four corners of Arkansas sticking to a brutally simple game plan – the 93% model. And boy, has it worked out for the GOP challenger. Tom Cotton has stuck poor old Pryor so close to Obama there’s no daylight between them it seems, despite Pryor’s increasingly blatant attempts to distance himself from the president. By focusing on the fact that Pryor voted 93% of the time with Obama, Cotton now has about a 7% lead in the polls according to RealClearPolitics. Obama, needless to say, is not popular in Arkansas. While Pryor’s father, the late David Pryor, is a well-liked political figure in the state, having been a state legislator, US senator, and governor, his name is apparently no longer enough to keep his son in office.

Is it fair? If you look inside the raw numbers, it is true that Mark Pryor lined up with Republicans on gun laws, but not on background checks at gun shows, where he voted with his party, and not with the GOP. He voted for Keystone but against the birth control exemption. On most fiscal issues he voted with his party and voted down the House GOP budget bill. And he voted against repealing Obamacare. So while that 7% where Pryor did not vote with the president might contain a few votes that the senior senator can point to as proof of his not-too-liberal credentials, the real issue is whether a Democratic senator will offer enough of a change for voters in a conservative state like Arkansas, which voted overwhelmingly against Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Tom Cotton has found the perfect rhetorical weapon to clear away any doubts on the issue. In Arkansas, 7% is not nearly enough when it comes to your voting record, but more than enough when it comes to voting in a new senator.

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