President Barack Obama was not in Arkansas Monday, but his name was at the tip of Republican Tom Cotton’s tongue all that afternoon.
Debating incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor — as well as Libertarian Nathan LaFrance and Green Party candidate Mark Swaney — Cotton hammered Pryor as a proxy for President Obama nearly every time he spoke during the 1.5 hour debate.
“Barack Obama has said his policies are on the ballot, every single one of them. I agree with that too. In Arkansas those policies are called Mark Pryor,” Cotton said, asserting that the incumbent has voted with Obama 93 percent of the time.
Pryor defended himself as a lawmaker who works in a bipartisan way and attempted to distinguish his record from Obama. He further attacked Cotton as being controlled by special interests and outside groups trying to buy the Senate seat.
“They are investing in Tom Cotton, just like they would invest in a company,” Pryor said. “Why? They want to get a pay back on this investment and they will. If he is elected to the Senate they will get six years of paydays because what he’ll do things like cut Social Security, he’ll increase the age to 70 on Medicare and Social Security, he’ll vote against farm bills. He’ll do things to find the so called savings over here then he’ll turn around and give them enormous tax breaks over there.”
In a blast email to the media during the debate the Cotton campaign argued that it has been outside Democratic groups spending the most on the the race.
Nearly a third of the debate focused on questions dealing with the campaign ads. The rest took on Obamacare, foreign policy, the farm bill, and plans for the upcoming six years.
Cotton used each question as an opportunity to attack Obama’s policies and by extension Sen. Pryor as a “rubber-stamp” and a “vote for Mark Pryor is a vote for more of Barack Obama’s policies.”
“The president doesn’t have an effective military strategy,” Cotton said of the ISIS threat, “he has a political strategy to get us beyond Nov. 4. What we need is to take it seriously and no serious leader, certainly no commander-in-chief would ever take any option off the ground, including troops on the ground because the Islamic State certainly isn’t taking any options off the table. But Barack Obama does that and Sen. Pryor once again rubber stamps his failed policies.”
At one point early on in the debate one of the debate questioners, Gwen Moritz the editor of Arkansas Business, interrupted Cotton and accused him of “just reading talking points” as he veered away from a question about misleading ads to discuss Obama, Pryor and what he hopes to do to improve Arkansans lives.
Cotton returned to discussing the problems in the Obama/Pryor economy after the moderator explained to Moritz that there were no provisions in the debate rules for follow ups.
Pryor defended himself from the Cotton attacks by saying he does not always agree with Obama.
“I disagree with Obama plenty,” Pryor said pointing to his support for the Keystone Pipeline, opposition to EPA regulations on carbon, opposition cuts to Social Security and opposition to gun control last year.
“Congressman Cotton loves to throw out these phony statistics about how much I’ve agreed with President Obama. You all know me! You know I don’t agree with President Obama on a whole variety of things,” he said.