Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

Chuck Todd: Takeaways From 'Meet the Voters' - Arkansas Edition

 / Updated 

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
In the state that vaulted Bill Clinton into one of the most formidable careers in Democratic Party history, Democrats could be facing a grim future.
I talked to Arkansans about why Republican Tom Cotton looks well positioned to oust a member of one of the state's powerful dynasties, and why the GOP upstart hasn't quite put this race away yet.
Here are my three takeaways from the 'Meet the Voters' trip through Arkansas:
1) Democrat Mark Pryor is trailing in this race for one reason: President Barack Obama, whose approval rating among Arkansas residents stands at a dismal 31 percent. But the surprise is that Pryor is still in it at all. He's surviving because of his deep roots in the state (his father was a beloved senator and governor), his small-town retail politicking skills, and a reputation for centrism. (Add to that a substantial Democratic GOTV effort). But the problem for Pryor is this: folks here know he's an ideological centrist, but he doesn't have the voting record to prove it. That's why it's so surprising that, unlike other Democratic candidates this cycle, he's not renouncing the person who's singularly responsible for keeping more moderate legislation from coming to the Senate floor: Harry Reid. "I would say that I would support Harry Reid if he runs for leader," he told me.
2) Cotton looks poised to win in the state, but if you're trying to figure out why he hasn't put this race away yet, one thing that can't be ignored is his vote against the farm bill. It came up in our talk with Arkansas farmers here -- who were less Pryor Democrats than Clinton Republicans. If it were a disqualifying issue for Cotton, he'd be losing, but it is certainly something that's resonated in a negative way. This is a conservative state, but it's not one that's anti-federal government the way some other Southern states are (or at least are stereotyped to be.) These folks want to be a partner with government.
If Pryor does find a path to victory, it will be due to a combination of African American turnout and support from senior white women. He needs the former to be at least 13 percent of the electorate, if not more. He's closing with an argument about Social Security and Medicare to target that bloc.
3) There's a real fear here among professional Democrats that they could be witnessing the sunset of the state's once-dominant Democratic Party. Sure, the presidential contests have been swinging Republicans' way since the state's native son, Bill Clinton, was re-elected in 1996. But Democrats have still won four of the last five Senate races. This year, if they go 0-4 (with a Senate seat, two competitive House seats and one gubernatorial contest on the ballot), it might spell the end of the Arkansas Democratic Party as we know it.
NBC's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.