A new poll of Arkansas has Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor leading his Republican challenger Tom Cotton by six points.
The poll, which is an internal poll from Pryor’s own campaign has the Democrat leading 45%-39%. Politico reported on the credibility of Sen. Pryor’s pollster, “Pryor’s pollster, Andrew Maxfield, worked last cycle for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and his numbers wound up being closer — showing a slight advantage for Tester — than many public polls. Maxfield argues in a memo that Pryor has a higher ceiling than Cotton, a freshman congressman. In addition to the 45 percent who back the senator, 8 percent said there is a “fair chance” they might still back him. Only 9 percent not currently backing Cotton said there’s a “fair chance” that they will support him.”
There is another poll out from Talk Business & Politics that has Republican Tom Cotton leading 44%-42%. However, there are doubts about the accuracy of this poll, because the pollster sampled African-American voters at a lower level than their actual turnout in 2010. As Republican pollsters demonstrated in 2012, one sure way to give a Republican the lead is to undersample voters that support Democrats. It isn’t a coincidence that the poll undersampled African-Americans by three points, and Cotton has a two-point lead.
The Republican march to the Senate majority isn’t going as smoothly as they expected. Sen. Mitch McConnell is tied with Alison Grimes in Kentucky, and the red state Senate seats being held by Democrats aren’t going down without a major fight. One of the problems with the polling models that forecast the Republican takeover of the Senate is that they rely heavily on what happened in the 2012 presidential election instead of how these Democratic incumbents are viewed by the voters in their states.
Democrats like Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana have been winning elections in their states for years. This isn’t their first rodeo, and the climate that they are facing at home isn’t much different from their previous campaigns. There isn’t going to be a Republican wave in 2014, and there may not be a Republican Senate majority if Democrats keep battling through Election Day.