Two conservative groups, Club for Growth Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund, released a new poll on Tuesday that shows Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., a top target in 2014.
In late January, 53 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Pryor, while 25 percent had an unfavorable opinion of him in the Basswood Research poll of likely voters. By mid-March poll, 36 had a favorable opinion of Pryor, while 36 percent had an unfavorable opinion of him.
Both organizations have recently aired paid advertisements against Pryor — this one from the club, and this one from SCF. The distilled message of the ads from both groups was that Pryor was not independent and votes a great deal of the time with Barack Obama.
Both ads were backed by moderate buy sizes, which Democrats argued casts doubt on the big shift in Pryor's favorability.
According to CQ Roll Call Vote Studies, in 2011, Pryor voted 95 percent of the time with the president in votes where Obama clearly indicated his preference. In 2012, that number fell to 91 percent. Numbers for the 113th Congress have not yet been calculated.
Obama is deeply unpopular in Arkansas, taking less than 37 percent of the vote there in 2012.
Still, Arkansas insiders of both parties say Pryor continues to have a strong personal brand in the state. Also, no top Republican has indicated they will challenge him.
But in the most recent poll, freshman Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., leads Pryor, 43 percent to 35 percent. Twenty-two percent were undecided.
Washington, D.C., Republicans are recruiting Cotton to run for Senate. He hasn't yet said whether he will run for re-election or take on Pryor, which could be part of the reason this poll was made public. The Club for Growth was strongly supportive of Cotton during his successful House bid last year.
Matt Canter, the communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, slammed Cotton and the poll in a statement, calling it a "sham."
"The people of Arkansas elected Tom Cotton five minutes ago," Canter said. "If he already deems himself worthy of a promotion, then he is in for a lot of disappointment."
A GOP firm, Basswood Research, conducted the polls using live telephone interviews to survey 600 likely Arkansas general election voters. The first, paid for by the Club for Growth Action, was conducted Jan. 27-28. The second, paid for by the Club for Growth Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund, was conducted March 16-17. Both had margins of error 0f 4 percentage points.
Barney Keller, a spokesman for the Club for Growth, said "favorability and ballot test were asked at the top of the poll, before any other questions."