"I'm not ashamed to say that I believe in God, and I believe in His word," says Sen. Mark Pryor in his new campaign ad. Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat widely seen as one of America's most vulnerable congressional incumbents, spends the entirety of the 30-second ad holding a Bible in front of the camera, and outlining how the Bible (and presumably, not Barack Obama) guides his every move. "Neither political party is always right," Pryor says.
"This is my compass, my North Star," Pryor adds, as he waves his Bible between his body and the camera. "It gives me comfort and guidance to do what’s best for Arkansas.” The ad was first obtained by ABC's KATV, and later posted to the senator's YouTube channel.
There is nothing new — or shameful — about politicians discussing their faith in the course of their political work. Almost everyone, including Barack Obama, does it strategically. Pryor's Bible ad is apparently an attempt to soften the tone of what promises to be a bitter 2014 campaign around Christmas time. But it's doubtful that Pryor's primary intent is to praise the virtues of God.
Pryor, who supported the Affordable Care Act, is already fighting against a dramatic approval rating drop in the deeply religious state, coinciding with the disastrous roll-out of the Healthcare.gov exchange site. And as The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, the senator's Republican challenger Rep. Tom Cotton is going hard against the conservative Democrat's record of supporting Obamacare.
Update, 4:12 p.m.: The saga of Mark Pryor's Bible ad got a little stranger on Wednesday after the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Pryor's challenger Tom Cotton got into a fight over the NRSC's critical response to it. In an email, the NRSC told reporters that Pryor had previously said the Bible "is really not a rulebook for political issues," which they argued conflicts with Pryor's current ad. The organization concluded, as first reported by the Hill:
So is the Bible Mark Pryor's compass, providing the 'comfort and guidance to do what's best for Arkansas?' Or is it really not a good rule book for political issues and decisions made in the Senate? Guess it depends on which Mark Pryor that you ask.
Cotton campaign spokesman David Ray then told the Hill that his campaign found the NRSC's response "bizarre and offensive," arguing that "we should all agree that America is better off when all our public officials in both parties have the humility to seek guidance from God."
Cotton, a Tea Party-style politician, has seen some pretty substantial backing from the national Republican party for his 2014 challenge to Pryor. The Pryor campaign's own response to the ad mentioned that support: "Congressman Cotton's Washington allies are manipulating quotes to question the sincerity of Mark's religious beliefs," a campaign spokesperson told reporters.