“This looks fun,” said former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as he looked at the press gathered for Romney’s endorsement this morning in North Little Rock of Rep. Tom Cotton, challenging Mark Pryor for U.S. Senate.
Why Romney? The main point seemed to be reminding voters of the man who defeated Romney, President Barack Obama, who remains the focal point of Cotton’s campaign. Romney topped Obama in Arkansas by more than 20 points. “How different America would be today, how different Arkansas would be today, if we had President Mitt Romney,” said state GOP chair Doyle Webb wistfully, introducing Romney.
Cotton, joined by new wife Anna, said that Arkansans were “a little bit ahead of the rest of the country…if the rest of the country had followed our lead, our state and our country would be much better off today. Arkansans did render their judgment on the Obama agenda two years ago when they voted for Gov. Romney. They do have a chance to render that judgment and make it effective by retiring Mark Pryor. Mark Pryor is a loyal foot soldier for Barack Obama and his agenda.”
Romney was on message, nationalizing the race:
The entire nation cares about this race. The question is are we going to take the course that’s been set by Barack Obama and Harry Reid. … You’ve got to have a team in Washington that will say no to President Obama and say no to Harry Reid, and we’ve got to elect a Republican senator for that to happen.
Cotton and Romney gave the usual spiel on Obamacare, though in a rather more muted fashion (more on that coming in a separate post), but notably also focused on immigration. Even as the issues shift, by the way, you can play Mad Libs with OBAMA. Said Cotton: ‘Mark Pryor stands with Barack Obama when it comes to our immigration crisis.”
Romney was asked about whether the Republican party needed to embrace immigration reform, a common theme in the postmortems after his loss in 2012.
“I think it’s important for our nation and for the millions of people who are here illegally to understand what their prospects are, what their future will be in this country and to have immigration reform,” Romney said. “By securing the border first and by ultimately changing our system to make it more transparent and more navigable by people who want to come here legally. I want to see the United States Congress and the White House agree on an immigration plan and see that passed after these elections.”
Asked if he agreed, Cotton said:
We are a nation of immigrants but we are also a nation of laws, and we have to respect the rule of law. Barack Obama is not doing that right now. It is not within his power to grant unilateral amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and when we do, what do we get? We get another immigration crisis on our border. What we have to do is secure our border and enforce our immigration laws. … This is not a political issue, it’s about respecting the rule of law and making sure we have the right kind of immigration system. … In the short term, we have a crisis and we have to address that crisis. That’s what we did last month in the House of Representatives that would stop the president’s unilateral amnesty. …
Clearly, Cotton is hoping to make political hay out of potential executive action on immigration by Obama. Indeed, with Obamacare perhaps not packing quite the same punch, the Cotton campaign may be fishing for new issues to allow them to perseverate on Obama.
p.s. if you’re wondering, Romney was asked whether he was considering a run in 2016 (really?). Nope, he said.