How far will Mark Pryor go to show that he's not really a Democrat, or not much of one? Call Barack Obama a Muslim? Leave his hat on in Nancy Pelosi's office? Demand reversal of Brown v. Board of Education? (The school integration decision was a bipartisan piece of work, but Democrats got blamed for it.)
Pryor has recently taken to Bible-thumping, a political tactic more commonly used by Republicans, and one often denounced by Democrats. Waving the Holy Word at viewers, a shade threateningly, the senior and only Democrat in the Arkansas congressional delegation declared in a TV ad that his Christian faith is a reason, if not the reason, for Arkansas voters to return him to the Senate.
"This is my compass, my North Star," he testified. "It gives me comfort and guidance to do what's best for Arkansas." He didn't say that his opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, was his inferior in belief, though the unspoken comparison was left lying out there for those wanted to make it. And it's a long way to the election.
Cotton himself was probably shaken by Pryor's ploy, having been claiming that his own service in the Army is a reason, if not the reason, to promote him to the Senate. Now he finds himself trumped. Around here, the Christian soldier is more highly regarded than the secular trooper. We'll be hearing a lot about Cotton's religion soon.
But that's what we expect of Republican candidates. Democrats would rend Mike Huckabee in quarters for saying what Pryor did. It's fine for a politician to be religious, and to mention it on occasion. It's not fine for a politician to say that his religion is reason to elect him. Not in a country that reveres the separation of church and state.
Still, there's no choice in the Senate race but Pryor. He supports affordable health care and decent schools. Cotton supports tax breaks for the rich and less food for hungry children. Democrats will have to remind themselves that Pryor is one of them, no matter how hard he tries to hide it.