Headlining a debate watch party at Carroll County Republican Party headquarters Monday stemmed from more than ideological connections and GOP ticket boosting for U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas.
Cotton was in Carroll’s central business district mingling with local Republicans during Iowa Public Television’s U.S. Senate debate between his GOP colleague U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, and the Democratic candidate, Theresa Greenfield.
“For me, Joni has become not just a colleague in the Senate but a good and close personal friend of mine and my wife,” Cotton said in an interview with The Times Herald. “She’s even come over to babysit our kids so we can have the occasional date night. We trust Joni with the most important things in our life.”
The Cottons have two sons.
A fellow veteran, Cotton described Ernst as a tireless advocate for the military, something he sees as among her greatest strengths in office.
Her race and President Trump’s performance in Iowa specifically are central in the battle for control of the nation’s government, Cotton said.
“I think this is really going to be the center of the political universe,” Cotton said. “It’s not just that the president must win Iowa to get reelected. Joni Ernst must be reelected if we are going to hold the Senate majority.”
Cotton said Democrats have floated “radical ideas” like increasing the number of Supreme Court justices, granting statehood to Washington, D.C. or providing “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants.
“I don’t think that’s what Iowa wants,” Cotton said. “And I know that’s not what most Americans want.”
Cotton, a stalwart supporter of Trump, is widely regarded in political circles as a likely Republican candidate for the presidency in 2024. He said Iowa should retain its first-in-the-nation status for the presidential nominating process.
“I think it’s a great tradition,” Cotton said. “Iowans have proven themselves time and again to have very discerning judgment in our presidential primaries and caucuses, and I see no reason why we would change that.”
While stressing that the focus now is squarely on the current election, Craig Williams, chairman of the Carroll County GOP and a State Senate candidate, said he sees Cotton as being a strong White House candidate in the future.
“2024 really isn’t that far away, so I’m not surprised we already are starting to see some potential candidates coming around,” Williams said. “Having somebody the caliber of Senator Cotton here in Carroll is a privilege, actually. He’s very articulate, very well spoken and a very intelligent guy.”
In the interview, Cotton called into question the veracity of a New York Times story this week reporting that Trump paid $750 a year in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 and took massive write-offs on business losses. The president has dismissed the Times reporting as “fake news.”
“I’ll say the New York Times purports to have access to the president’s tax documents,” Cotton said. “I don’t know how they would have done that, but they’re not releasing any of those documents, so I hesitate to take everything the New York Times reports on faith without them releasing the underlying documents they have.”
The New York Times says to make the documents public would expose sources for the story.
“We are not making the records themselves public because we do not want to jeopardize our sources, who have taken enormous personal risks to help inform the public,” New York Times Executive Editor Dan Baquet said in a Sunday editorial.
Cotton said the president himself has said he’s involved in real estate development, a high-risk business in which people have good years and bad years, and that’s reflected in taxes.
“It all kind of averages out in the long run,” Cotton said.