LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A day after their first televised debate, the candidates in Arkansas’ heated U.S. Senate race are gearing up for round two. Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor and Republican rival Rep. Tom Cotton are set to square off for their second and final debate at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville campus on Tuesday night.
The debate comes after the two shared the stage with the Libertarian and Green Party nominees for a 90-minute debate in Conway on Monday. Unlike Monday’s debate, this one will only feature Cotton and Pryor.
Here are some of the issues and themes likely to come up during Tuesday’s debate, which will be broadcast live by Little Rock television station KATV, KAIT in Northeast Arkansas and KHBS/KHOG in Northwest Arkansas:
OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA
Cotton made it clear in Monday’s debate that this race is as much about President Barack Obama as it is Pryor. Cotton invoked the president’s name throughout the debate, repeatedly accusing Pryor of being a “rubber stamp” for the president.
The approach isn’t surprising. Obama lost Arkansas in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and remains deeply unpopular in the state. Democrats have tried to counter that strategy, with former President Bill Clinton telling voters in his home state last week that they shouldn’t use the midterm election as a “protest vote” against the White House.
Expect Cotton to continue trying to tie Pryor to the president. Pryor on Monday accused Cotton of running against one man, saying he was running for 3 million Arkansans, an argument he’ll likely use again if Cotton continues invoking the president.
Pryor in turn portrayed Cotton as someone who’s has put ambition before the state’s interests. He’s tried to cast Cotton as too partisan, saying the Republican doesn’t have the reputation, ability or desire to work across the aisle.
It’s a line of attack that Pryor is likely to continue, along with his argument that billionaire donors are backing Cotton the same way they’d invest in a company and are hoping for a return on that investment.
Cotton has pushed back on the criticism that he’s putting his ambition first by citing his background as an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cotton has argued that the Army is where he’s learned leadership.
The one-on-one format will allow for much more heated exchanges between Pryor and Cotton on multiple issues, especially over the federal health overhaul. Republicans have successfully run against the law over the past two elections in Arkansas.
Cotton has called for the law’s repeal, calling it a disaster, and has said doing away with the overhaul will allow for other health reforms.
Pryor may press Cotton further on what repealing the law would mean for Arkansas, where nearly 200,000 people are receiving coverage through the state’s “private option” compromise Medicaid expansion under the law.
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