In the unlikely event that Mark Pryor wins re-election as Arkansas’ senior U.S. Senator in 2014, he should send New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg a thank-you gift. Something like a sugary 44-ounce Big Gulp or a case of Dr Pepper. Offering His Honor a 30.06 deer rifle would be churlish.
Unlike liberal groups who scared up a primary opponent for former Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010, predictably helping her lose to a cookie-cutter GOP conservative, Bloomberg’s group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has given the beleaguered Democrat, well, a target to shoot at.
Angered with Pryor’s Senate vote against broadening background checks for gun sales—one of four Democrats to do so—Mayors Against Illegal Guns has been running TV ads in Arkansas citing the murder of state Democratic Party chair Bill Gwatney by a deranged gunman in 2008.
Narrated by former Democratic Party official Angela Bradford-Barnes, the commercial expresses the disgust of just about every Arkansas Democrat I know with what they saw as Pryor’s cowardly vote. “The Caspar Milquetoast of Arkansas politics,” one acerbic columnist dubbed him.
“When my dear, innocent friend was shot to death, I didn’t blame guns,” Bradford-Barnes says, “I blamed a system that makes it so terribly easy for criminals or the dangerous mentally ill to buy guns.”
Pryor has said that he found the politicizing of his friend’s murder “disgusting.” Maybe he did.
Tactically speaking, the problem with the Bloomberg ad is that just about every Democrat I know lives either in Hillcrest, basically the Upper West Side of Little Rock, or in the college town of Fayetteville—completely atypical of Arkansas voters generally. They can be as disgusted as they like. But they have exactly nowhere to go.
Blanche Lincoln carried Hillcrest handily against Rep. John Boozman in 2010. She lost statewide 58 to 37 percent.
President Obama also carried Pulaski County (Little Rock) in 2010; Mitt Romney won Arkansas by 24 points.
So you can see Pryor’s dilemma. Meanwhile, the billionaire-coddling Club for Growth (or “Club for Greed” as former Gov. Mike Huckabee once called it) has also been hammering the Arkansas Democrat with TV ads blaming him for President Obama’s supposedly runaway spending.
But more about that to come.
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