WASHINGTON, DC (NBC News) - There are several headlines from our batch of NBC-Marist polls out of Arkansas, Georgia, and Kentucky, which are all May 20 primary states.
One, Democrats are holding their own so far in the general-election matchups in these Southern states. Two, the national environment (Obama’s approval, view of nation’s direction) is still a potential drag on these same Democrats. And three, the GOP establishment is besting the Tea Party in the upcoming Republican primaries in Georgia and Kentucky.
But to us, the biggest headline from our poll is this: Candidates still matter, even in the toughest of environments. That explains why incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D) leads Tom Cotton (R) by 11 points among registered voters in Arkansas, 51%-40%.
Pryor has a 50%-35% fav/unfav among registered voters in the state, versus Cotton’s 38%-39% score. What’s more, Pryor is getting the support of 32% of voters who disapprove of President Obama’s job in Arkansas.
Bottom line: Arkansas voters, per our poll, seem comfortable separating Pryor from Obama (it probably helps when Bill Clinton’s fav/unfav in the state is 68%-28%. And Cotton’s goal over the next five-plus months will be to make the case that a vote for Pryor is a vote for Obama (whose approval rating is just 34% in the state).
Indeed, there’s still a path to victory for Cotton, one that many a Republican rode to success in 2010. But at the beginning of the year, many didn’t think there was such a path for Pryor. Ours is now the third poll since April to have him up double digits in Arkansas.
That candidates matter also explains why Asa Hutchinson (R) is leading Mike Ross (D) in Arkansas’ gubernatorial contest, 49%-42%. (While Pryor leads Cotton by seven points among independents, Hutchinson’s lead among indies is 15 points.)
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