- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee campaigned for Republican candidates in his home state Thursday, finding that a political landscape dominated by Democrats during his tenure is now a two-party state.

Huckabee endorsed former congressman Asa Hutchinson for governor in Little Rock, then headed west to back a Senate bid by U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton.

“Make sure that you have something great to celebrate on election night,” Huckabee told a crowd of about 250 people outside the Fort Smith Museum of History. “All Americans will be cheering when they hear Tom Cotton will be the next senator from Arkansas.”

Huckabee’s visit came just days after former President Bill Clinton, another previous Arkansas governor, visited three college campuses to drum up support for Democratic candidates. Thursday’s GOP crowd was older and smaller and ranged from farmers in blue jeans to businessmen in shirts and ties.

“If the election were today, Tom Cotton, if we could get the vote out, would win,” said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., who would become the state’s senior senator if Cotton defeats two-term incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat.

Democrats had taken control of Arkansas state government after Reconstruction and held the Legislature and most congressional seats until this decade. Huckabee, who took office in 1996 and served 10 years, was only the third Republican to serve as Arkansas governor since 1874.

Cotton, should he win, would be only the third Republican U.S. senator over the same time.

“I’m a Republican and I think the same as him,” said Catherine Morin, 68, of nearby Alma. “Pryor always votes with Obama, and I don’t like Obama.”

Booneville resident Doug Webb, 67, a retired federal worker, said he hoped Cotton might help improve the nation’s new health care law.

“I would hope he would try to change it, so it’s a little more fairer to the senior citizens,” Webb said. “I don’t think you can repeal it.”

Cotton spoke briefly, saying a vote for Pryor meant a vote for President Barack Obama, who remains intensely unpopular in Arkansas.

“Are you better off than you were six years ago?” Cotton asked the crowd.

“Nooooo!” many booed.

“Then it’s time to send a message to Barack Obama and retire Pryor.”

Hutchinson is running against another former congressman, Democrat Mike Ross, for governor.

“This is an exciting time in Arkansas politics, and this election means a great deal in moving our state forward,” Huckabee said in Little Rock while endorsing Hutchinson.

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