The number of states in which the Republicans have a realistic chance of picking up Democratic Senate seats is rather small, and it perhaps got even smaller last week when the GOP's best and probably only chance of offering a significant challenge to Arkansas' freshman Democratic Senator Mark Pryor announced that he will not mount a bid for the upper chamber of Congress. Aaron Sadler has the story for the Northwest Arkansas Morning News.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Friday he remains focused on his 2008 presidential bid and will not challenge Sen. Mark Pryor next year.
"The rumors have been out there, and I need to put them to bed. I don't see it happening," Huckabee said of the possibility he would end his run for president to take on Pryor, a first-term Democrat, in a Senate race.
"There are no ifs on this one. I have a race I'm in, and I'm committed to it."
Without Huckabee, the party "is going to have to go to the bench, but it's decimated here in the state," said Richard Wang, a political science professor at Arkansas State University.
Democrats shut Republicans out of every constitutional office at the state Capitol last year.
Despite the denial on the part of Huckabee, there is always the potential that he will drop his presidential bid, say after a poor showing in the Ames GOP straw poll in the fall, and decide to make a pass at Pryor. Yet even with Huckabee in the race, it's a far from a foregone conclusion that the Republicans would be able to win the seat. In 2002, a historically strong year for Republicans, Pryor defeated the then-incumbent Republican Senator Tim Hutchinson by a healthy 8-point margin -- the only Democrat to pick up a seat during the cycle.
And even though the Republicans would not be assured of a pick-up with Huckabee in the mix, they're almost assured of not having a competitive race without him. As mentioned in the article above, the Republicans really don't have a bench in Arkansas. Perhaps they could run Asa Hutchinson, brother of the former Senator and a former Congressman, U.S. Attorney and Bush administration official in his own right, against Pryor, but this Hutchison was defeated even more soundly than his brother was in 2002 when he ran for governor last fall, losing an open seat race by 14 points.
So given the fact that Arkansas, at least on paper, should have been the Republicans second or third best pick-up opportunity in the Senate this cycle, the fact that no serious GOP candidate is even coming close to lining up for the race and that the best potential candidate is effectively saying no, we have yet another indication that things are just not lining up for Senate Republicans as they would like it to.