Do I think Pryor’s vote against background checks was cowardly? I did then. However, Democrats like The Daily Beast’s Mike Tomasky, who cite polls showing strong majorities of Arkansans favoring universal background checks, may be overlooking the difference between a mild preference expressed to a telephone pollster and a conviction strong enough to hold against a barrage of paranoid NRA propaganda.
Can a majority of Arkansans be convinced that bogeyman Obama is coming to confiscate their guns? I wouldn’t bet against it in Arkansas or any state it borders upon—Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee or even Missouri.
Simply put, fear and loathing of President Obama has reached cult-like proportions across the region, and there’s little Mark Pryor can do about it before November, 2014. Almost everywhere you go—dentists’ offices, auto dealers, fitness centers, airports—the waiting room TV is tuned to Fox News, and people are swallowing it whole.
So more than a year early, Sen. Pryor has come out swinging against his dream opponent: Michael Bloomberg. Even though no Republican rival has yet declared, he’s begun airing a 30-second TV spot complaining that, “The mayor of New York City is running ads against me because I opposed President Obama’s gun control legislation.”
The commercial ends with the Senator striking a belligerent pose: “No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do,” he growls. “I listen to Arkansas.”
Take that, limousine liberals! As much as the vote, it was the impression of weakness that may have been Pryor’s greatest liability. Months of unanswered Club for Growth ads also didn’t help.
Now the question is whether he can carry the fight to his presumptive, albeit undeclared GOP opponent Rep. Tom Cotton, the favored candidate of the aforementioned Club for Greed. Also of GOP kingmaker Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, whose greatest hits as a political prognosticator include the Iraq War and Sarah Palin.
The hand-picked selection, that is, of another passel of New York/Washington elitists. A superficially appealing candidate with impressive credentials, Cotton also appears to be a stone right-wing zealot who not only voted against federal disaster aid for storm victims, but recently proposed a law punishing relatives of lawbreakers—parents, siblings, aunts and uncles—for their transgressions. In a word, a crackpot.
Basically, Pryor’s got to portray himself as an advocate of the Arkansas Way—a moderate Democrat like his father, former Sen. David Pryor, like Dale Bumpers, and Bill Clinton—a just-folks pragmatist beset by condescending outsiders, and one who’ll fight for you as hard as he fights for himself.
A longshot? Definitely. But it’s been done before.
Copyright 2013 The National Memo