LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Six years after being elected in an expensive and heated race, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton is on the ballot again and he's campaigning hard — just not in Arkansas.
With no Democratic rival and millions in campaign funds to spend, Cotton has run ads in the battleground states of Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. He's on the trail with Senate colleagues such as Kelly Loeffler in Georgia and Steve Daines in Montana, and he's made the rounds at events in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Cotton's moves show a barely concealed ambition: While his GOP colleagues are struggling mightily to save their Senate seats, his schedule has all the hallmarks of someone focused on the White House in 2024. His is one of several shadow campaigns going on behind the din of the 2020 election battle, and an example of a missed opportunity for Democrats who, even with President Donald Trump motivating opposing voters, couldn't find a viable Senate candidate to possibly take advantage.
Cotton insists his focus has been on helping fellow Republicans and the president, not on any future plans.
“The campaigning I've been doing this year across the country is laying the groundwork for a Republican majority in the Senate and hopefully the president's reelection," Cotton said. “I am always Arkansas' voice in the Senate, but I've got to tell you my voice is much stronger if I have at least 49 other Republicans there with me."
The only Democrat who announced a bid against Cotton abruptly withdrew his candidacy hours after the filing deadline. His sole remaining opponent is the Libertarian nominee, Ricky Dale Harrington, a 35-year-old former prison chaplain who's never sought public office before.
State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray said he doesn't know if Cotton's race could have been a tossup like Lindsey Graham's in South Carolina, where Democratic opponent Jaime Harrison has shattered fundraising records.
But, Gray says, “he certainly would have had a real race on his hands."