Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
AR-01: Rep. Marion Berry is retiring
Primary: May 18, 2010
Location: Northeast corner of Arkansas
Days until the election: 23
Arkansas is rife with opportunities for Republican gains this November, and its First District is no exception. Seven-term Democratic Rep. Marion Berry announced his retirement earlier this year, leaving open a seat that has been in his party's hands for over 100 years.
Berry's former chief of staff, Chad Causey, is now running to fill his boss' seat, but faces a tough challenge from Republican Rick Crawford.
Despite Berry's long tenure, this agriculturally rich, rural district is by no means a Democratic stronghold.
Arkanasas-01 went for President Bush in 2004, and overwhelmingly chose Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. The district, which covers the northeastern part of Arkansas and encompasses much of the state's Mississippi Delta region, has a strong conservative streak that, combined with this year's anti-Washington fervor, might just tip the district back to red.
Crawford has latched on to the national mood, emphasizing his background as an agricultural broadcaster and businessman, while portraying Causey as a congressional insider. Causey worked for Rep. Berry for a decade, and spent much of that time in Washington.
Crawford has, nonetheless, benefitted from the support of his national party leaders.
The National Republican Congressional Committee named Crawford a "contender," in its "Young Gun" recruitment program, and has run ads in the district on behalf of the first-time politician.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty endorsed Crawford, and House Minority Leader John Boehner pledged to help him secure a spot on the House Agriculture Committee – an important seat for the representative of a district in which 90 percent of the area's jobs are tied to the farming industry.
But Causey still holds a few advantages, most notably the backing from former President Bill Clinton, who remains an extremely popular political figure in the state of which he used to be governor. Clinton has fundraised with Causey, and recorded a robocall for the candidate.
Causey also out-fundraised Crawford – $753,812 to $434,893 as of June – but has spent heavily, giving Crawford a 2-1 cash advantage in a relatively inexpensive media market.
Prominent political handicappers rate this race a "toss up," but if Crawford is able to maintain his recent momentum, the odds might soon tip in his favor.