Two senators take extreme measures to show allegiance to Trump
“We know that we’re a closely-divided country when it comes to politics,” Cotton said. “And any person that Democrats nominate, the president is going to take seriously [and] I personally take seriously.”
Cotton said he was considering expanding his advertising campaign to other battleground states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, which have lost manufacturing jobs to China.
Cotton is spending five figures to air the new ad, which began running on Ohio TV stations this week. It will also appear as a digital spot nationally. He is expected to invest six figures on the upcoming coronavirus-focused spot.
The 42-year-old Arkansas senator is a sure bet to win reelection, allowing him to use his war chest to assist the president and Republicans running down-ballot. He has more than $4.5 million in his campaign account, according to his most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission.
“I can focus on helping the president win reelection and helping my colleagues in difficult states win reelection as well,” said Cotton, who for a time was mentioned as a potential Trump pick to be CIA director. “Let’s just say that I have more time on my hands.”
Scott drew notice in January when he began airing an anti-Biden spot in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses. In response, the former vice president joked that Scott was “so interested, as a senator from Florida, whether or not I should win an Iowa caucus.”
“Isn’t that fascinating?” Biden asked. “Pretty amazing.”
Scott, a multimillionaire former hospital executive, spent five figures on both of his spots. His second commercial, a Spanish language spot, is running in his home state of Florida. Scott said he was open to taking other steps to engage in the 2020 presidential contest.
He is also working to establish goodwill with his Senate colleagues. Last week, he invited a half-dozen Republican candidates up for election in 2020, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, onto his private plane to hopscotch across Florida for a series of fundraisers. The events netted about $1.7 million, which will be distributed to each of the candidates running in November.
Some of those on the jaunt speculated that Scott might be interested in serving as a future National Republican Senatorial Committee chair, a perch that would give the Florida senator entrée to a wide swath of prominent GOP donors.
By taking the unexpected step of running pro-Trump ads, Cotton and Scott are making a clear play for the president’s supporters at a time when fealty to the commander-in-chief defines the party. Regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, many in the party are convinced that Trump will play an outsize role in determining the future of the party — including who sits atop the 2024 ticket.
“Primary voters pay attention to these things,” said Jim McLaughlin, a veteran Republican pollster who is working on Trump’s reelection effort.
McLaughlin, who worked on a pro-Scott super PAC during the 2018 midterms, said the Florida Republican’s move helped him “stand out, which is not always easy to do when you’re a senator.”
Cotton and Scott are also filling a vacuum. While Democratic primary candidates clog the TV airwaves, the president has gotten relatively little cover. Trump’s reelection campaign has focused much of its advertising on digital outlets, while the main super PAC supporting the president is husbanding its resources for later.
The senators said they had each spoken with the Trump team about their efforts. Cotton noted that he had personally chatted with the president about his belief that China would play a central role in the general election.
“Sen. Scott and Sen. Cotton have been strong allies of the president,” said Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman. “Their support is much appreciated.”
Both men have taken other steps to position themselves for 2024. Later this spring, Cotton is slated to headline a political dinner in New Hampshire, a key early primary state. He is also helping one of the state’s Republican Senate candidates, Don Bolduc. Cotton has filmed a TV ad for Bolduc that is expected to run later this spring.
Scott visited the state prior to last month’s New Hampshire primary to stump for Trump.
The Florida senator indicated he hadn’t given much thought about 2024 or how his efforts might affect what unfolds in the coming years.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “There’s always a risk-reward, right?”