Earlier today, Rep. Tom Cotton held a conference call with bloggers to discuss the launch of his Senate campaign, and to brief us on policy questions. Cotton took on Mark Pryor repeatedly as an unswerving ally of Barack Obama who put Arkansas voters second to the President despite his promises to remain independent. Cotton hammered Pryor on ObamaCare as he has all this week, calling him the “deciding vote,” but also told bloggers that Pryor’s support for the “amnesty bill” in the Senate surprised him. Freshman Senator John Bozeman’s vote represented Arkansans more accurately, Cotton said, and emphasized that his focus this summer in the House would be on border security and internal enforcement as priorities.
Cotton began his remarks by reviewing the first week of his campaign. The reasons he’s running for the Senate are the same as his reasons for running for the House and serving in the Army — he loves his country and wants to serve it. Mark Pryor puts Barack Obama first, not Arkansas, and Cotton says it’s time for change. He toured his Congressional district and later more of Arkansas to enthusiastic crowds, promising “a clear choice for Arkansans” and an end to Pryor standing up for Obama instead of Arkansas.
Cotton then took questions from the conference, and my raw notes of the Q&A follow. Quote marks denote direct quotes, although some of the remarks not in quotes are close to what was said.
- College editorials — what relevance do they have now? — I dealt with that in the House race, and they prove that I was a conservative then and now. Daily Caller has also been friendly to him, and those columns are as relevant as fingerpainting I did in elementary school. Jokes that his mother is keeping those secret.
- How big will immigration reform be in the campaign? — Surprised that Pryor voted for the “amnesty bill” Bozeman represents Arkansan views on immigration. Border security and interior enforcement have to come first, and reforming our legal immigration system is a bigger priority than dealing with the illegal immigrants already here. Received 1800 contacts from Arkansans on immigration — only 12 in favor of the Senate bill.
- Pryor is embracing his vote for ObamaCare. How well will that play in the state, and how big will that issue be for the election? — It will be a central issue in the campaign, and a lot of voters will be amazed to hear Pryor call it a success story. Mentions Baptist Health layoffs and shift to part-time work as drivers of the debate. “I suppose that Senator Pryor has to defend his vote, since he was the deciding vote on ObamaCare,” but Cotton doubts that it will work for Pryor. Later, he said that the political alliance that supported it is “fracturing,” and endorses strategies to stop ObamaCare does more damage than it already has.
- Two or three of your top domestic policy goals on limiting federal government — One way is to reform the tax code, which just grant special favors to crony capitalists. Stopping ObamaCare is another key, especially the individual and employer mandates. Halting out-of-control spending is another key goal, returning spending levels to where they were before the stimulus reset the baselines.
- What are the unique challenges in Arkansas? — It’s not a deeply conservative/Republican state, despite its performance in presidential elections, but it is rapidly becoming one under Barack Obama. We are still emerging as a Republican state, which means that the organizational efforts will be a challenge. The state party is working hard on organizing and GOTV, and commitments from the national GOP organizations.
- Shutdown strategy – Near-unanimity on repealing, defending, or delaying ObamaCare, using the debt ceiling or the CR as leverage, or stand-alone measures. We’re still having a lively debate within the caucus on the best way to proceed. “Barack Obama is the only one talking about a shutdown.”
The Cotton campaign released its first ad overnight, a web-only spot that shows his rollout speech:
Note the emphasis on “I will stand with Arkansas.” Cotton will make Pryor defend Barack Obama whether he wants to do so or not.