Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton has defeated two-term Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas, in an expensive and heated race that the GOP viewed as crucial to its efforts to win the Senate.
The 37-year-old Cotton was elected Tuesday to a six-year term in the Senate. The two rivals and outside groups had spent millions and blanketed Arkansas airwaves with a barrage of television ads during the campaign season.
The 51-year-old Pryor was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and easily won re-election in 2008 without a Republican opponent.
Cotton, who served in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, was elected to Congress representing south Arkansas in 2012.
Cotton had regularly accused Pryor of being too closely aligned with President Barack Obama, who remains deeply unpopular in Arkansas.
Here are some of the key findings from preliminary results of the exit poll by the Associated Press in Arkansas:
COTTON STRENGTHS: Republican Tom Cotton, who tried throughout the campaign to link Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor to President Barack Obama, ran strong among white and older voters, those who strongly disapproved of Obama's performance, and those who said foreign policy was the most important issue facing the country, according to preliminary results of an exit poll conducted for AP and the television networks. Cotton emphasized foreign policy, an area where Republicans believed he had an advantage because of his background serving in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan.
PRYOR STRENGTHS: Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor fared well among black voters, those who identified as moderate or liberal and those who approved of Obama. He also had strong support among voters who said immigration was the most important national issue. Pryor tried to cast Cotton as out of touch with the state, including highlighting his votes against the farm bill.