Cotton Defeats Pryor In Key Senate Race

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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GOP rising star and freshman Rep. Tom Cotton will replace Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas in what was one of the most hotly contested races in the country.

Cotton, an Army veteran and Harvard Law graduate, ran a solid campaign and led Pryor in most of the polls leading up to the race. His primary strategy was to make every effort to tie Pryor to President Barack Obama.

Pryor was one of five vulnerable Dems in swing states this cycle who told their constituents they could keep their health care plan if Obamacare was passed, and Cotton slammed Pryor for it. “Mark Pryor cast the deciding vote to make you live under Obamacare,” Pryor’s campaign said in an ad.

Cotton also hit Pryor hard for voting for the Senate’s 2013 Gang of Eight bill, which would have granted amnesty to millions of illegals and increased legal immigration, arguing they would take jobs from Arkansas. “Senator Mark Pryor voted for amnesty, citizenship for illegals,” said an ad. (RELATED: Cotton Hits Senator Pryor On Amnesty To Win Swing Voters)

Cotton served two tours in the Army Infantry in Iraq and Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge and Ranger Tab. He worked for consulting firm McKinsey & Co. before securing a congressional seat in 2012.

Pryor tried to characterize Cotton as an overly ambitious, reckless and arrogant tool of politicians and billionaires, and criticized him as the only Arkansas congressman to vote against the Farm Bill, but struggled to find a working strategy. Obama’s approval rating is below 40 percent in the state, and Pryor recently admitted the president has been “a drag” on his campaign.

That campaign was marked by a series of misteps, gaffes and mismanagement.

In a debate with Cotton, Pryor said the middle class makes up to $200,000. Asked again for a specific definition, he said, “Well again, I’d say probably up to $200,000, there’s different definitions but that’s my working definition.” His comment drew heavy criticsim, and Cotton immediately jumped on the comment. “Sen. Pryor must be the one who’s hanging out with out-of-state billionaires if he thinks $200,000 in Arkansas is the middle class,” he said. (RELATED: Democrat Mark Pryor Thinks 200K Is Middle Class)

When a reporter asked him about Cotton’s military career, and whether he thought it was a requirement for running for the Senate, Pryor said he respects his service, but that he gives off this “sense of entitlement,” because he served his country. (RELATED: Pryor: Military Service Gives Cotton ‘Sense Of Entitlement’)

Pryor ran an ad slamming Cotton because he “voted against preparing America for pandemics like Ebola,” but when a reporter asked him whether Obama’s response to the outbreak was adequate, he stumbled embarrassingly over the answer. (RELATED: Mark Pryor Botches A Reporter’s Simple Question)

And in a silly error, Pryor stood in front of a sign on a podium at a Medicare press conference that read “TheRealTomCottonRecord.com,” which is a direct link to Cotton’s official website. The link should have read “TheRealCottonRecord.com” minus the Tom. 

Pryor took over his father and former governor David Pryor’s senate seat in 2008 against no Republican opposition in a climate more favorable to Democrats, and Iowa’s own Bill Clinton stumped for him. And he dumped $13.5 million into the race — almost twice as much as Cotton. But his loss signals the end of an era of Clinton inspired centrist Democrats in the state.

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