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Family Names May Sustain Southern Senate Democrats

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Pryor is expected to pursue a strategy of reminding voters of his deep Arkansas roots and constituent work.

Democrats, however, believe that GOP attacks connecting Pryor and Obama will fall flat because Arkansans already know Pryor is his own man.

“They’re going to try to paint Mark as an Obama Democrat, but people here know him well enough, they know his dad well enough, they’ve known his family for 40 years in office,” Arkansas Democratic consultant Robert McLarty said. “I think he’ll be able to power through and push back against it.”

Arkansas Democrats expect Pryor to pursue a strategy of reminding voters of his deep state roots and highlighting instances where he’s worked to fix constituents’ problems through legislative means.

How difficult a slog Pryor has will largely depend on which Republican he faces. GOP Rep. Tim Griffin has said he’s not running, pushing speculation toward two other GOP congressmen: freshman Tom Cotton and sophomore Steve Womack.

Womack’s chief of staff, Beau Walker, said in an email that the congressman was focused on his job “and not yet thinking of anything beyond that.” Insiders aren’t sure whether Womack has genuine interest in giving up his safe House seat, and many expect him to forgo a Senate run.

That would leave Cotton, a military veteran who was just sworn into Congress.

“I know Tom Cotton is being heavily recruited now,” the plugged-in Arkansas Republican said. “He is reluctant because he just got to the House. But, at the end of the day, he has answered the call of duty before, and I think he’ll answer it again.”

Cotton’s chief of staff, Doug Coutts, said he had no comment on the Senate bid speculation.

There are some other non-politicians — including some who could partially fund a campaign — quietly eyeing the race, GOP insiders said.

In Louisiana, Rep. Bill Cassidy is seen as the likely GOP establishment choice to take on Landrieu. If he jumps in, he may well face a primary.

Landrieu, also likely to be framed by the GOP as being Obama’s best friend in Washington, will emphasize her record for Louisiana.

“That is truly what my election is going to be determined on — is my record of effectiveness on behalf of the people of Louisiana,” Landrieu told CQ Roll Call last month. “Frankly, I’d put my record up against anyone that has ever represented the state in the United States Senate.”

While it’s her record that appears poised to be the centerpiece of both her campaign and the campaign against her, having a brother serving as mayor of the state’s largest city won’t hurt. Strong turnout in Democratic New Orleans is an essential piece of a statewide Democratic victory in Louisiana.

National Republicans are expected to target both Landrieu and Pryor heavily, and the senators are certain to see their favorability tarnished by thousands of negative TV spots.

But unlike other vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election next year, such as Kay Hagan of North Carolina, both Landrieu and Pryor have a head start with positive brand names many years in the making. That matters.

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