In political advertisements, most candidates use people close to them--parents, grandparents, spouses, and friends--as character witnesses. Mark Pryor uses the Bible.
The Democratic senator, who is seeking reelection in 2014, will begin airing a distinctive new TV ad on Wednesday in which the Arkansas lawmaker talks about the importance of Christianity's holy book in his life. Speaking directly to the camera in a solemn tone, Pryor grips a Bible with both hands as he talks about how his faith--and not the directives of either political party--guides him.
"I'm not ashamed to say that I believe in God, and I believe in his word," he said, in a TV ad first reported by KATV in Little Rock. "The Bible teaches us no one has all the answers. Only God does. And neither political party is always right. This is my compass. My North Star. It gives me comfort and guidance to do what's best for Arkansas."
KATV reported the ad is running statewide and has "substantial" financial backing.
A spot so overtly focused on a candidate's religion is rare. But extraordinary measures are necessary in Pryor's case: He's widely considered the incumbent Democratic senator most likely to lose in 2014.
His candidacy's viability hinges on whether he can prove to his home-state voters that he shares their values and not those of President Obama, who won just 37 percent of the vote in the state last year. Few efforts drive that point home better than a TV spot focused on religion--many conservatives perceive Obama and national Democrats as secular, if not outright hostile to Christianity.
And it's not the first time Pryor, one of the few Democrats who still opposes same-sex marriage, has used religion as an ally in his campaign. In 2002, when Pryor first ran for the Senate, he featured an ad in which he again held his Bible and said, "The most important lessons in life are in this book right here."
The ad is the second memorable spot produced by the Pryor campaign of late, nearly a year before the midterm election. Last month, his campaign ran a hard-hitting spot about Social Security and Medicare. If there's a lesson from the pair of TV spots, it's that Pryor's campaign isn't wasting time trying to define him or his presumptive opponent, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton--especially as the problem-filled Obamacare rollout drags down Democratic approval ratings nationwide.