In case you have not heard, Arkansas’s Senator Tom Cotton is up for re-election. Still serving in his first term, he has quickly become a household name by earning the admiration of Arkansans and conservatives across the country. His popularity did not manifest out of thin air, however. It is his rational presentation of facts and “tell it like it is” attitude that earns him the respect of his constituents and more importantly, their vote.
That presents a series of problems for any opponent who decides to run against him. Considering his high caliber status as a candidate, there was great disappointment among Arkansas politicos that a recycled candidate decided to jump in the race. By the way, this candidate could not accrue a third of the electorate in his last campaign for Congress in the only area of the state that the Democrat Party saw limited success in 2018.
It would only be appropriate to provide some insight for his opponent on how to best improve his odds headed into 2020. While this may be tongue-in-cheek, the lessons to be learned here are real for anyone looking to represent their community as an elected official.
One of the most important lessons to learn is that elections are not solely won on Twitter. Depending on social media to convert likes into votes is a bad strategy, especially if a campaign is paying for it. This is a problem seen time and again in all levels. Candidates often try to emulate the attention that President Trump can muster, but they are not Donald Trump and therefore will never be as effective as he is on that platform. It may feel good preaching to the choir, but in a race where the odds are not in one’s favor, it is best to find common ground with constituents they would otherwise not associate with.
When picking fights with your opponent over differences on issues, make sure you are well versed on your opponent’s stance. If they do find exception with their opponent’s policies, they better have a detailed alternative, not just spoken platitudes. On one occasion a candidate assumed Senator Cotton did no support mandated insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
However, it was Senator Cotton who sponsored the Protect Act which was specifically designed to protect people with pre-existing conditions from losing coverage. It also eliminated discriminatory policies by insurance companies that prevent access to healthcare for all Americans. Either this candidate did not know about the Senator’s work on the Protect Act, which is a sign of ignorance, or he blatantly set out to deceive voters.
Earning media is another important piece of campaigning as it acts as a free advertisement for a candidate. Like President Trump, Senator Tom Cotton is in the homes of most Arkansans on almost a daily basis by participating in interviews on NBC, CNN, Fox News, PBS, CBS, etc. Many of whom attempt to put him in uncomfortable situations because it is their job as the media to ask hard questions. The Senator’s tact and diligence have always benefitted him during those interviews and helped him become one of the most recognizable Conservatives in the country.
His opponent, on the other hand, is practically nonexistent on this front. Besides the occasional progressive tabloid trying to get him recognized to the point that it feels forced and unnatural. Still, most Arkansans could not identify him in a police line-up. That is a big obstacle to overcome because this candidate needs to attract the typical Arkansas right-leaning swing voter, which will never happen as long as he lets his friends at Indivisible & Co. define his candidacy for him.
At the end of the day many of us enjoy the thrill of a knockout drag-out election, but they will not find that satisfaction in this one. Cotton is too iconic. He resonates with the typical Arkansas voter. He embodies American values in both belief and action. It is unfortunate for the opposition party that a candidate of comparable caliber could not be produced, but it is also not surprising.
(Each month, Arkansas Money & Politics will feature exclusive op-eds provided by members of the Republican Party of Arkansas. The views in these op-eds are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Arkansas Money & Politics or Vowell Media Inc.)