'14 for 14': Arkansas Senate Showdown

ABC's Jeff Zeleny examines the Arkansas Senate battle between incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor and rising conservative star Rep. Tom Cotton.
3:00 | 01/26/14

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Transcript for '14 for 14': Arkansas Senate Showdown
Now our "Sunday spotlight." A new series from our ABC news political team, "14 for 14." We're breaking down the key races to watch this year, and we're starting with one of the hottest senate showdowns. Pitting a veteran democrat against a rising republican star with control of the senate at stake. Here's ABC news's Jeff seleny in Arkansas. ♪ Reporter: A few things are certain in Arkansas politics. The importance of a handshake. The annual raccoon supper. And a Pryor on the ballot. Senator Mike Pryor's father David was also a senator who started running for office nearly a half century ago. But as mark Pryor fights for a third term, keeping the democratic dynasty alive won't be easy. Republicans have high hopes here. The party needs only six seats to win control of the senate. I don't want to be cocky. I have a hard race. I completely understand what I'm up against. Reporter: He's up against Tom cotton who republicans see as a rising conservative star. I'm good. Good to see you. Reporter: After seven months as a congressman, you announced you were running for the senate. Some said you're in a hurry, are you? I would say I am in a hurry. I have been in Washington for a year now and see a lot of problems that need to be fixed. Reporter: You have been called one of the new faces of the "Hell no" caucus. I would like to say yes. But if the president continues to propose higher taxes and more spending then I will be saying no. Reporter: Cotton grew up on a farm in central Arkansas. It seems as if he's been preparing for this moment all his life. Two Harvard degrees and two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. And loalong the way, he grew up watching another kid from rural Arkansas rise up to the white house. What kind of effect did that have on a young boy from Arkansas? Got me interested in politics. It was my first time to think about politics or government. Reporter: He may have drawn his inspiration from Clinton, but not his ideology. Even among the four other republican congressmen, cotton stands out. He was the only one to oppose a version of the farm bill because he said it spent too much money. Pryor is using and that other votes to build the argument that cotton is extreme. One thing we see with my opponent is that not only is he out of step with Arkansas, but he's out of step with the Arkansas republicans. I'm a more old-school senator. I want to work in a very bipartisan way. Reporter: But are voters in the market for a bipartisan senator? Particularly in a state where president Obama's policies like health care are so unpopular. How big of a political weight is this around your neck? You know, I think time will tell. I want the legislation to work. Here's a thing about my republican colleagues in Washington. They don't want to see us fix this. They want it to fail. Reporter: Millions of dollars have been spent on television already. Tom cotton cast the deciding vote. Tom cotton should be running, not for higher office, but from his own record. Reporter: But Pryor hopes that loyalty trumps party identity. Arkansas has a long history of splitting tickets. Reporter: Cotton, still unknown to many voters turned to his mother to introduce him. Christmas was harder when our son was in Afghanistan. Reporter: But as the band played on -- ♪ there was senator Pryor shaking hands with cotton's parents. He won't get their vote, but democratic values run deep. Even cotton's parents had never voted republican before. My father's first vote in the republican primary was in 2012. I had to convince him. Hard to do that. I think over time more arkansans are realizing in Washington, D.C. The democratic party doesn't stand for Arkansas values. Reporter: But cotton must now convince voters that he does. One handshake at a time. For "This week," Jeff, ABC news, Gillette, Arkansas. Thanks to Jeff. Check out our new series from the ABC news political team, 14 for 14 at ABC news.com and submit your vote for the race you want us to cover. And now we honor our fellow American who is serve and sacrifice. The Pentagon this week released the name of one soldier killed in Afghanistan. That's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World news" with David Muir tonight. And join us Tuesday for the president's state of the union address. Diane sawyer and George stephanopoulos lead our coverage beginning at 9:00 P.M. Eastern, 6:00 pacific.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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