Conner Eldridge

Roll Call's Senate Challenger Rankings
The list leans heavily Democratic in a year in which Republicans are playing defense

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan has never held office in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In close races, the quality of the candidates can make all the difference. And with a few notable exceptions, most incumbents acquit themselves well with strong fundraising, good campaigns, and a message tailored for victory.  

So this year, Roll Call has decided to rank the Senate challengers — that is, the candidates for office who aren’t incumbents. It’s a list that leans heavily Democratic in 2016, a year when Republicans are playing defense in all but two seats currently considered at all competitive.  

Arkansas Democrat Talks Long Shot Bid for Senate
Conner Eldridge is an underdog in his matchup with incumbent John Boozman

Connor Eldridge, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Arkansas. (Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call)

Less than two years ago, Arkansas voters dealt former Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor a humiliating defeat, giving him under 40 percent of the vote in his bid for re-election.  

Most analysts took the result as evidence that Democrats could no longer win statewide federal races in Arkansas — but Conner Eldridge didn't see it that way. The state’s new candidate for Senate says voters during the midterm election were angrier at incumbents than they were at Democrats, a dynamic he thinks his campaign can take advantage of in November when he faces GOP Sen. John Boozman.  

Young, Ambitious and Wealthy Isn't Enough in Arkansas

Beebe's wins as a Democrat in Arkansas won't provide Eldridge with a roadmap to victory in the Senate race. (Danny Johnston/AP File Photo)

Former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge announced on Sept. 9 he will seek the Arkansas Democratic Senate nomination and the right to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. John Boozman in 2016.  

Writing in the Arkansas Times before Eldridge entered the race, veteran political journalist Max Brantley observed  the Democrat would be “a sparkling candidate in a long tradition of young, ambitious, smart lawyers — [Dale] Bumpers, [David] Pryor, [Jim Guy] Tucker, [Bill] Clinton, [Vic] Snyder.”