Going, going, gone? A Southern Democrat's battle for electoral survival

Power PlayersJanuary 30, 2014

The Fine Print

Are Democrats on the verge of extinction in the South?

As the party tries to hold their Senate majority in the 2014 midterm elections, perhaps no Democratic seat is at greater risk than that of Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. But Pryor rejected the notion that he’s part of a dying breed of Southern Democrats during an interview on the campaign trail with “The Fine Print.”

“I would argue against that,” said Pryor, who believes that Democrats are poised to win several local and national races. “I think we’ll win the Senate race. I mean, I don't want to be cocky about it. I know I have a hard race on my hands, and I completely understand what I'm up against here.”

As he seeks a third Senate term, Pryor describes bipartisanship as his “hallmark” in the Senate. He said he’s confident the voters of his state are comfortable with his brand of politics.

“I think people in this state know me,” Pryor said. “I'm in my 12th year in the Senate now, the second term. I think people are comfortable with me.”

Challenging Pryor in the Senate race is Tom Cotton, a first-term congressman who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, holds two degrees from Harvard, and has the backing of both the GOP establishment and the tea party.

In a separate interview with the “The Fine Print” in Arkansas, Cotton said he’s observed a transitioning political landscape in Arkansas that’s moved in the favor of the Republican Party.

“My father's first Republican primary was in 2012 for my race,” Cotton said. “And I had to convince him pretty hard to do that. Arkansas is still transitioning. Arkansas has always been a conservative state.”

The 36-year-old said he took his inspiration for political achievement from fellow Arkansas-native Bill Clinton, but attributes his political philosophy to another presidential giant: Ronald Reagan.

“I would say that the brand of conservatism I represent, like Reagan's, isn't opposed to government, it wants good government,” he said.

Cotton said he made a decision to join the Army during his third year of law school following the Sept. 11 attacks. He is applying lessons from his military past to his political present.

“I've learned, as we say in the Army, that hard is not impossible and long is not forever,” he said. “And that's good to know in Congress, because there are a lot of hard things that have to be done and they might take a long time. But that doesn't mean they're impossible.”

For more of the interviews with Pryor and Cotton and to see their visit to the annual “Coon Supper,” check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”

ABC News’ Gary Westphalen, Ron Ladd, Ken Collins, Mo Emison and David Settlemoir contributed to this episode.