A Candidate’s Best Friend? The Bible.

Trying to define himself early, Mark Pryor turns to his faith.

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 12: Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Product Safety and Insurance Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK) testifies before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on Capitol Hill September 12, 2007 in Washington, DC. The subcommittee held a hearing about the government and business reaction to the recent recall of millions of toys produced by Mattel and other companies in China.
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
Dec. 4, 2013, 4:45 a.m.

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.

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