Donald Trump is not yet the official Republican nominee for president, but Politico is already looking ahead to 2020 and potential Republican presidential candidates such as U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
Question one: Maneuvering around Donald Trump.
The pitfalls are obvious: Throw your support to Trump, and be tied to him. Buck him, and risk turning off his supporters.
Politico notes that Cotton is being very careful.
Cotton has indicated he’ll support the New York businessman if Trump’s the nominee, though the senator hasn’t gone out of his way to praise or criticize him. It’s all part of what Cotton aides describe as a deliberate strategy. While cozying up to Trump makes little sense (the hawkish Cotton differs from Trump on foreign policy issues), neither does distancing himself (there’s little to be gained by alienating his backers).
When Cotton headlined the South Carolina Republican Party’s Silver Elephant Dinner last month, attendees were more struck by what he didn’t say than what he did — nowhere did he mention Trump’s name.
Like Cruz, Cotton has been forward in his aspirations. Since he was elected to the Senate in 2014, he’s traveled to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. His aides are building out an aggressive travel schedule in the weeks to come. Next week, Cotton will venture to Southern California to appear before an Orange County GOP gathering. And in August, according to a Cotton spokeswoman, he will be a guest at a motorcycle-and-barbecue-themed political event hosted by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. At the Republican National Convention in July, he’s expected to address a number of state delegations.
Cotton is also expanding his political team. One recent hire, according to a source familiar with Cotton’s staff moves: Dorinda Moss, a former National Republican Senatorial Committee finance director who was a top fundraiser on Rubio’s 2016 campaign. (Neither Moss nor a Cotton spokesperson would comment.)
He recently launched a new political action committee, the Republican Majority Fund, which will allow him to raise money for down-ballot candidates.
I’d add that Cotton jumped to attack Hillary Clinton (though not mentioning Trump by name) after her much praised speech last week critical of Trump’s knowledge and potential on foreign policy.
And speaking of Trump maneuvering: Has a leading Republican politician yet been heard to utter a word about his incendiary comment that he couldn’t get a fair trial from a respected judge because the judge, an Indiana native with a record of fighting crime on the Mexican border, has a Hispanic surname?
Sen. Cotton? Boozman? Reps. Hill, Womack, Crawford, Westerman? Gov. Hutchinson? Lt. Gov. Griffin?