TEXARKANA, Ark. — Former President Bill Clinton criticized conservative groups' ads against top Democrats in his home state on Sunday, as he returned to Arkansas to help make the final case against a Republican sweep in the upcoming midterm election.
Kicking off his third statewide tour in the state over the past month, Clinton praised U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, gubernatorial hopeful Mike Ross and congressional candidate James Lee Witt as examples of the type of bipartisanship voters say they want. He said conservatives are trying to mislead voters about the candidates with a blitz of television ads that continue hitting the state as Tuesday's election nears.
"All these people that are paying for these ads dumping on these candidates, where are they going to be Wednesday morning? They're not going to be here," Clinton told a crowd gathered in downtown Texarkana. "They don't give a rip about you."
Clinton, who also planned stops in West Memphis, Blytheville and Fort Smith, has been a popular surrogate in his home state as it tries to fend off Republicans claiming the state's top offices.
Pryor faces a tough re-election fight against Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton in a race that could determine which party controls the Senate next year. Ross is running against Republican and fellow ex-congressman Asa Hutchinson with hopes of succeeding Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is term limited. Witt, who directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency under Clinton, is running against Republican state Rep. Bruce Westerman for the 4th Congressional District seat currently held by Cotton.
Republicans are increasingly confident about the races, though recent polls have varied wildly on whether Democrats remain within striking distance.
The GOP has made major gains in Arkansas over the past two elections primarily by trying to link Democrats to President Barack Obama, who lost the state in the 2008 and 2012 elections and remains deeply unpopular. Clinton criticized that strategy.
"How can we possibly vote against what we say we want because of all this stuff on the air?" Clinton said. "They literally are trying to take as many Democrats' names off the ballot as they can and put the president's on because his approval rating's low."
Speaking at the rally, Pryor cast himself as someone who's able to work with both parties and called Cotton an obstructionist.
"Do you want to send a senator to Washington who's going to oppose and block everything the other side tries to do?" Pryor said. "Do you want a senator who's going to go to Washington and if he doesn't get his way, shut down the government?"
Cotton's campaign pushed back against the criticism and accused Pryor of siding with the president too much.
"Tom Cotton has proven that he's willing to work with anyone to get our economy moving again and keep America safe and secure," Cotton spokesman David Ray said in an email. "Senator Pryor simply isn't a bipartisan Senator. You can't vote 93% of the time with Barack Obama in Washington and then come back to Arkansas and call yourself 'bipartisan.'"
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