I do believe the Senate campaign is fully engaged.
Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton is the darling of Beltway conservatives like Bill Kristol. But he’s having a harder time on his putative home turf of Arkansas. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor isn’t going away without a fight.
Did July 4 signal the official beginning of the campaign season? It did coincide with an onslaught of Pryor-supporting advertising. And the rollout of former Sen. David and Barbara Pryor’s on the campaign trail is another signal that the campaign is in full gear..
Above: The Pryor campaign makes hay of Tom Cotton’s holier-than-thou remarks on Pryor’s religious faith. In Cotton’s view, you must accept his doctrine — for example, on preventing women from getting health insurance coverage for birth control pills — or be considered less worthy religiously than Tom Cotton.
Below: An ad highlights how Tom Cotton took advantage of student loan programs to attend Harvard but has voted against student loan legislation as a member of Congress.
And here’s a tough piece from U.S. News and World Report on Tom Cotton. Despite insider Washington certainty about Cotton’s easy ascension, it’s just not happening. Why? The problem might be personality, according to this article.
The overarching problem: While Cotton’s resume is sparkling, his persona is flat. He speaks with authority, but lacks warmth. His wooden delivery is more often academic, lacking an everyday, common touch that’s still essential in a place with slightly less than 3 million people, the smallest state in the south. His slender frame and boyish haircut makes him look even younger than his 37 years, a trait Democrats are attempting to subtly exploit as they portray Cotton as a bit too overeager as he seeks a promotion after just a single term in the House. He’s a smash hit with the conservative commentariat class in Washington, but remains a largely unknown quantity to the everyday Arkansan.
Cotton’s absence from the Pink Tomato Festival to join instead a secretive Koch gathering at a high-dollar California retreat was noted. Quotes included:
“Cotton has a reputation, bless his heart, for being a bit of a cold fish,” says Janine Parry, a pollster and professor at the University of Arkansas.
As any Arkie knows, “bless his heart,” is the last thing you want someone saying about you.
Cotton and his well-financed surrogate supporters will be pounding back, of course.
Cotton, for example, has cobbled up an ad with a supporter from Mayflower, Republican Sheriff Andy Shock, saying Pryor is using the tornado there for political purposes. The Cotton campaign has been attempting to play the victim card since the day the tornado hit. They want to talk about anything but Cotton’s repeat votes against disaster aid funding bills. Votes have consequences. Tragic needs illustrate this clearly. It is political NOT to point it out.
The disaster stuff is stinging. The Cotton people are furiously counter-attacking, including with a statement from a tornado victim who owned an RV business hit by the storm. He says he allowed Pryor people onto his property to help him but ran them off when he realized they were filming for campaign use. He demanded that any film shot on his property be removed from Pryor videos. The Pryor campaign said they’d be happy to do so.
Reminder: The issue remains Cotton’s opposition to disaster funding.