A new poll of registered voters in Arkansas shows Democratic sentaor Mark Pryor leading his Republican challenger, Tom Cotton, by 11 points. Pryor receives 51 percent support, while Cotton has 40 percent, according to an NBC News/Marist poll released Monday. This is the largest lead for Pryor since a problematic New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll (also of registered voters) found him with a 10-point lead.
The NBC News poll found Pryor winning independents, 48 percent to 41 percent, while he splits white voters evenly with Cotton at 46 percent. While Pryor unsurprisingly has an overwhelming advantage of those who approve of the job of his fellow Democrat, Barack Obama (86 percent to 9 percent), nearly a third of those polled who disapprove of Obama also support Pryor.
Pryor's best asset appears to be that half of Arkansas registered voters have a favorable opinion of the two-term senator, and just 35 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of him. Cotton, on the other hand, is just barely underwater on favorable/unfavorable ratings from registered voters at 39 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
The same poll found that in the state's race for governor, Republican Asa Hutchinson leads Democrat Mike Ross by 7 points, 49 percent to 42 percent. That's the biggest lead for Hutchinson yet in a race that once seemed leaning toward a hold for the Democrats. (Two-term Democrat Mike Beebe is retiring.)
A Republican source in Arkansas points out the NBC News poll appears to undersample self-identified Republicans (23 percent of the sample) and also oversamples those called on cell phones as opposed to landlines (55 percent to 45 percent). Furthermore, the poll asks about both residents and registered voters, not likely voters. In most political polls registered voters tend to lean more Democratic than likely voters. The last non-partisan likely voter poll, April's Talk Business poll, gave Pryor a 3-point lead, 46 percent to 43 percent.
While Arkansas has become a reliably Republican state on the presidential level and has become dominated by the GOP on the congressional level, Pryor has held on in his race despite his support for Obamacare in 2010. Cotton is a first-term congressman and Army veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.