The former governor of Arkansas and his First Lady will return to the state to campaign for embattled Democratic Senator Mark Pryor in the run-up to the 2014 campaign. This is not about Mark Pryor, though. It is mostly about that First Lady, Hillary Clinton.
The Washington Examiner reports the Clinton's planned return home "will likely include both public events and private fundraising on Pryor's behalf."
The Clintons have reason to pitch in: Their family has a longstanding relationship with the Pryors. Mark Pryor’s father, David Pryor, was Arkansas’ governor when Bill Clinton was still the state attorney general.
Sure, that's one reason. The Clintons have helped Pryor before. In 2002, when Pryor first won the seat, Senator Clinton hosted a fundraiser for him, for example. (In 2008, Pryor ran unopposed.)
But this time, the Clintons have two much stronger reasons to push for a Pryor victory.
The first is that Hillary Clinton — who may be running for president, as you may have heard — certainly wants to ensure that Arkansas is back in play in 2016. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate won the state was 1996, when her husband was reelected (see graph at right). But even then, he only got about 53 percent of the vote (in a three way race). Obama lost the state in 2012 by almost 24 percentage points, a margin substantial enough that it might give even the Clintons pause. By spending a decent amount of time in 2014 criss-crossing the state and reestablishing connections with local voters, the Clintons certainly hope to reinvigorate support in the state.
The second reason is to ensure a strong campaign team in Arkansas. Keeping a United States Senate seat for the Democrats helps maintain an advocate connected to what's happening in Arkansas, assuming that the Democrats don't hold the governor's seat next year. If Pryor wins, Clinton can call on him to play the reverse role in 2015 — hosting fundraisers and acting as a proxy for the candidate in Little Rock and on Capitol Hill. Something he might be more eager to do if he feels like he owes the Clinton for his position.
Bill Clinton always relished being the head of the Democratic Party. Since he left office, he's weighed in on campaigns at various levels of support and engagement. While Hillary was Secretary of State, her ability to do so was limited. It's possible that this campaign sweep is simply a function of the Clintons enjoying their newly unleashed status.
But it probably isn't.
Correction: This article originally suggested that the current governor might seek reelection. He has reached his term limit.