The theme and the argument is no surprise. It’s the candidate who says “I approve this message” and the states targeted for it that are more unusual. Senator Tom Cotton represents Arkansas, but he’s entering the airwaves in Minnesota and Wisconsin to take on Joe Biden and the Summer of Rage. It’s an effective ad, to be sure:
NEW Tom Cotton ad going live in Wisconsin and Minnesota tonight pic.twitter.com/SVv6J4nVPI
— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) August 30, 2020
This follows a GOP convention where Team Trump put law and order at the core of their messaging. In fact, this ad and its targeting makes for a perfect transition to the general-election campaign, given the recency of riots and destruction in both states. Because both states are shaping up as battlegrounds — again — one would expect Team Trump and the RNC to push a hard line against the political violence erupting in these two key states, as well as using that messaging elsewhere.
What makes this notable is that it’s not coming from Team Trump or the RNC. The ad comes from Cotton’s Senate campaign, at least nominally. So how many votes for an Arkansas race does Cotton expect to get in Minnesota and Wisconsin, anyway? One could suggest that it’s an argument for people to move to Arkansas from those places, but the motive here is clearly to lift Cotton’s profile outside of his home state as a law-and-order political figure. It comes at the same time that Cotton argues at Fox News that Democrats have become the party of weakness and anarchy:
Another American city is smoldering because weak politicians failed in their most basic duty: protecting the lives and property of their citizens. Without strong action to restore order and deter criminals, the carnage will spread. …
They endured this anarchy with little support from the state’s Democratic politicians. To the contrary, these Democrats seemed afraid to upset the media and their party’s radical base, who downplay, excuse and even encourage violence when it serves their cause. …
Americans watched in horror this summer as armed anarchists took over entire city blocks in Seattle, violent mobs besieged government buildings in Portland, and looters in Chicago forced the mayor to cut off access to downtown to prevent further destruction. This season of chaos and lawlessness has contributed to a double-digit spike in the murder rate in the nation’s largest cities. Hundreds of Americans have been killed as a result.
Now chaos continues in places like Portland, where one man was killed in a clash between Trump supporters and protesters this weekend, and is spreading to smaller towns like Kenosha. Months into this crisis, the lesson to any responsible leader is clear: take action quickly to maintain order, otherwise anarchists and insurrections will be emboldened to destroy your city and move on to the next one.
Last week, Kenosha and Minneapolis were the unlucky cities. Next week, it could be your home town.
It’s a good message for the GOP in 2020, and Cotton can perhaps take some credit for being a team player by devoting his campaign resources to boosting it nationally. At the same time, Cotton appears to be boosting himself as the 2024 candidate of law and order in the states that likely will matter more in that election as well as this one. And the more that the anarchists burn, the more effective this messaging will be — perhaps even finally at the city-government level. If that messaging succeeds, then Cotton 2024 might become an inevitability.