When incumbent Democrat Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) attacked his midterm opponent Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) last month over his supposed sense of “entitlement” from his military service, it prompted widespread scorn and mockery — not least of which included pointed reminders that Pryor owes his own political career to his dad. The NRSC hammered Pryor and its DSCC counterparts for their “unacceptable” attacks on military service, but Cotton himself has opted for a lighter touch. He called his drill instructor to demonstrate just what military service taught Cotton, and “entitlement” doesn’t make the list:
“Sen. Pryor says my military service gives me, quote, ‘a sense of entitlement.’ So I brought in an expert,” Cotton says before his former basic training drill sergeant enters.
“Drill Sergeant Norton taught me to be a soldier: Accountability, humility, and putting the unit before yourself. That training stuck,” Cotton says after Norton gives him permission stand “at ease” in the humorous spot.
The light-hearted ad seeks to soften Cotton personally, tout his military record and knock Pryor for comments earlier this spring that Cotton has “a sense of entitlement that he gives off.”
“It’s almost just like ‘I served my country, therefore let me into the Senate.’ That’s not how it works in Arkansas,’ ” Pryor said in an interview to MSNBC last month.
Works better than my dad was Governor, most likely. While Cotton’s ad doesn’t directly address the complete hubris and hypocrisy of Pryor’s statement, it skewers him perfectly nonetheless. Furthermore, it uses the kind of self-deprecating humor that people love from public officials, which provides a very welcome contrast to Pryor’s pomposity. In its own gentle way, “At Ease” might end up being the campaign ad of the year — and I’ll bet that Arkansans see it a lot over the next few months.
Update: Matt Lewis calls this a “home run,” and offers three reasons why it works:
1). It obviously reinforces the key part of Cotton’s bio — his military service.
2). It serves to remind everyone of Sen. Mark Pryor’s most costly gaffe (his comments about Cotton’s military service giving him “a sense of entitlement.”)
3). Both these things are accomplished in a humorous manner. And as I’ve noted before, the knock on Cotton has always been that he’s too stiff and serious — that you’d rather have a beer with Pryor. This humorous ad (coupled with the music) shows Cotton’s personality, and undermines the notion that he’s aloof.
Update: The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan notes that Cotton wants to use a softer approach, but oddly never includes in his analysis the Pryor attack that this ad specifically rebuts — that Cotton acts entitled to the Senate seat. It’s not that his other points are wrong, but it ignores the central point of the ad. It’s as if one looked at the 1984 Macintosh ad and discussed the innovation of WYSIWYG and the mouse.