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Southern Fried Smackdown: Mark Pryor Shreds Koch Candidate Cotton In Arkansas Senate Debate

Sen. Mark Pryor tore through Koch candidate Rep. Tom Cotton in tonight’s Arkansas Senate debate. Cotton’s only response to every question was to avoid specifics and blame Obama.

Note: This is a rush recap of tonight’s debate.

Sen. Pryor began his opening statement by saying he has taken Arkansas ideas to Washington, then hit Cotton right away with the big cash that he has taken from out of state billionaires. He pointed out several Cotton House votes on Medicare, and raising the student loan interest rate.

Rep. Tom Cotton used the standard Republican line that Washington isn’t working, without admitting his role in breaking Washington. In less than two minutes, Cotton mentioned Obama four times and said that voters need to quit apologizing for America and attack ISIS before they attack us here.

The first question was about keeping the Fort Smith 188th flying. Cotton used his rebuttal to again name drop Obama and claimed that Pryor doesn’t take military security seriously because he supports President Obama. Rep. Cotton’s strategy is painfully obvious. He is going to link Pryor to Obama.

Pryor was asked about Walmart dropping health insurance for part-time employees. Sen. Pryor pointed out that Walmart workers have a private insurance option in Arkansas. Pryor explained how people with preexisting conditions have benefited from the ACA. Sen. Pryor said he wanted to make changes in the law, but he doesn’t want to go back to the bad old days.

Cotton blamed the changes at Walmart on Obamacare and called the ACA government run healthcare. Cotton used the phrase Mark Pryor and Barack Obama twice in his answer. Pryor pounced and told voters Cotton didn’t say. He didn’t offer a solution. Rep. Cotton claimed that people were happy with their high premium/low coverage junk insurance.

Rep. Cotton had to do a song and dance over his vote to slash food stamps in the Farm Bill. Cotton used the standard GOP line that country is in debt, without pointing out the deficit was shrinking. Cotton again linked Pryor and Obama. Pryor responded by nailing Cotton for saying one thing in Arkansas, but doing another in Washington. Pryor said, “He’s not listening to you. He’s listening to his mega-donors who are trying to buy this election for him.” Cotton responded by saying the name Barack Obama three times in thirty seconds.

Pryor again drilled Cotton for being bought and paid for by outside billionaires. Sen. Pryor was asked what was his definition of the middle class. Pryor said that Cotton wanted build the economy from the millionaires down while he wants to build the economy from millionaires out. Cotton responded by name dropping and blaming President Obama, and claimed that repealing Obamacare would help the middle class.

A later question was for Cotton, who was asked what happens to the 200,000 Arkansans who signed up for Obamacare. Cotton used Obamascare tactics and described turning Medicaid into a block grant program. Cotton offered no solution. Pryor accused Cotton of using fuzzy math, and said that the state legislature and governor deserve credit for getting 240,000 residents insurance. He said that Cotton insists on taking that coverage away from them. Cotton stuck to the bogus Republican talking point that Obamacare is harming Medicare. Pryor said, “Congressman Cotton has no answer for the people that he would kick off of these health insurance programs.”

It is easy to see how Pryor has held off Cotton. Tom Cotton is the model Koch candidate. Rep. Cotton’s only strategy is to offer no details while linking Sen. Pryor to Obama.

On student loans, Pryor blasted Cotton for trying to cut student loans while using Stafford Loans to go to Harvard. Cotton responded with the laughable claim that Obamacare nationalized the student loan program. Cotton mentioned Obama another three times.

Rep. Cotton’s whole line of attack was centered on defining Sen. Pryor as a big government, Obama supporting Democrat. On infrastructure, Sen. Pryor specified which state projects are his priorities. Cotton danced and dodged around any infrastructure specifics.

Pryor was asked about his record of spending cuts and said that in the last three years he has voted for three trillion dollars in spending cuts. Pryor called for the focus to be on jobs, the economy and growing the middle class. Cotton responded by linking Pryor and Obama. It is unfathomable why the Republican Party touted Cotton as a good Senate candidate.

Rep. Cotton failed to put Senator Pryor on the defensive, and his dozens of attempts to link Pryor to Obama fell flat. Cotton repeatedly portrayed himself as a Washington outsider, even though he is part of the House majority that controls 1/3 of the legislative process.

Cotton had to play defense on the government shutdown, and voiced the House Republican delusion that it was the Senate’s fault that the government was shut down. Cotton was asked what proposals he would support to strengthen Social Security, and he said Pryor was robbing Medicare to pay for Obamacare. Cotton completely dodged the question because he supports privatizing Social Security. Cotton claimed that Pryor can’t be trusted on Social Security. Pryor gashed Cotton for following his billionaire backers and used the AARP study that said Cotton’s voting record would result in immediate cuts to Social Security. Cotton kept repeating the Obamacare/Medicare cuts lie.

Cotton’s closing statement was, “A vote for Mark Pryor is a vote for Barack Obama.” Cotton clearly had no agenda for Arkansas. Cotton tried to frame the Senate election as a referendum on Obama.

Pryor replied in his closing statement by saying, “He’s running against one man, and I’m running for three million Arkansans.” Pryor said I listen to you; he listens to his mega-donors.

Mark Pryor is a prime target of Republicans in 2014, but he has a good chance of winning reelection because the Republican candidate looks like he is hiding something — because he is. Cotton is banking everything on linking Pryor to Obama. So far, that strategy hasn’t worked, and it fell flat in tonight’s debate.

Any Democrat who watched this debate should feel better about Sen. Pryor’s chances in what should be a very close Arkansas Senate election.

Jason Easley

Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements. Awards and  Professional Memberships Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association

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