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Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) is going on the attack against his likely 2014 opponent, U.S. Representative Tom Cotton (R-AR), over Cotton’s role in the government shutdown and debt ceiling crises.

In a new television ad, titled “$24 Billion,” the Pryor campaign asserts that Cotton’s “irresponsible actions weakened our credit and damaged our economy.”

“Tom Cotton cost us billions,” the ad’s narrator says, citing a report from Standard & Poor’s. “The government shutdown cost America $24 billion.”

“Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed,” the ad later asserts. “Senators like Mark Pryor brought Democrats and Republicans together to end the shutdown and responsibly cut spending.”

Pryor’s ad is an obvious attempt take advantage of the widespread unpopularity of both the government shutdown and debt ceiling crises, and the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. That may be a particularly difficult task in The Natural State, however. According to a recent University of Arkansas poll, 39 percent of the state’s likely voters blame President Obama and Democrats for the government shutdown, while just 27 percent blame the Republicans in Congress. This is a reversal of the national trend, which finds Republicans taking primary blame.

The poll also underscores Pryor’s vulnerability in the upcoming election. It found that just 34 percent of likely voters approve of Senator Pryor’s job performance, while 44 percent disapprove. This is a sharp drop from last year, when voters approved of Pryor by a 53 to 21 percent margin.

Pryor has long been one of the Republican Party’s top targets in the 2014 midterms, and unless they defeat the two-term incumbent, the GOP is extremely unlikely to gain the net of six seats that it needs for a Senate majority. Rep. Cotton, who is only in his first term in the House, is widely considered to be one of the GOP’s strongest Senate candidates in the upcoming elections.

Early polling of the race finds that it begins as a tossup. The most recent poll, from Talk Business-Hendrix College on October 13, found Pryor ahead 42 to 41 percent, with 17 percent still undecided.

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