Cotton edges Pryor in Q4 fundraising, race now seen as leaning Republican

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton has banked $2.2 million for his campaign to unseat two-term Sen. Mark Pryor in the 2014 mid-term election, according to his campaign.

Cotton, a freshman Republican from Dardanelle, raised $1.24 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, besting the Democratic incumbent who raised $1.1 million during the same period. Meanwhile, the Arkansas Senate race is now considered “leaning Republican” by a noted campaign handicapper.

Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics this week shifted the Arkansas Senate race from his “toss up” column to “leans Republican.”

The elections prognosticator said the shift was not due to any specific event but an acknowledgement that the state in general has moved toward the GOP.

Sabato said Pryor has a harder hill to climb than Senate Democrats seeking reelection in 2014 from Louisiana and North Carolina with larger populations of minority voters who trend Democrat.

Cotton’s Senate campaign raised a total of $3.45 million for the year. His campaign also reports having more than $2.2 million in cash on hand at the end of December.

The funding totals, as well as details of who contributed to his campaign between October and December, will be included in a filing report to the U.S. Senate Clerk that is due at the end of January. The campaign issued a summary Thursday.

Pryor’s campaign announced earlier this month that it had raised $1.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2013 and closed the year with about $4.2 million cash on hand.

Cotton’s campaign said this is the second quarter in which it will have outraised Pryor.

The Arkansas Senate race is expected to be among the most hotly contested — and expensive — in the nation, as Republicans seek to gain control of the U.S. Senate in 2014.

The contest is expected to continue to draw attention from national organizations seeking to influence the Arkansas vote. Independent groups have already begun to advertise across the state.

More than $1.7 million has already been spent in Arkansas on the 2014 Senate race by so-called super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Sunlight Foundation puts the total at $1.25 million with the bulk aimed in opposition to Pryor. Club for Growth Action has spent more than $520,000 and Senate Conservatives Action nearly $320,000 opposing Pryor. The Senate Majority PAC has spent nearly $112,000 opposing Cotton, according to Sunlight Foundation.