Arkansas Debate: Cotton excels; Pryor confirms he’s out-of-touch

Tom Cotton made a strong showing in last night’s Arkansas Senate debate. His opponent, Mark Pryor, fought hard, but may ultimately have put the final nail in his coffin.

Asked by one of the questioners to define the middle class, Pryor at first ducked the question. When pressed, he opined that it consisted of those making up to $200,000 a year.

Talk about out of touch. Pryor’s definition might pass the straight-face test here in the affluent suburbs of Washington, DC where he (the son of a Senator) attended high school and seems to feel most comfortable. But I doubt that it will fly in Arkansas.

As for Cotton’s performance, its high quality can be established by the fact that I watched the entire debate. Let me explain:

During the past few weeks, I’ve been unable to watch any Senate debate in its entirety. Why? Because sooner or later I become dissatisfied with the Republican’s performance and turn the television off (or switch to sports). It’s not that the Republican is performing poorly (though a few have); rather it’s because I’m so emotionally invested that I can’t tolerate a less than optimal performance.

There’s no race I’m more emotionally invested in than Tom’s. That’s why I considered skipping the Arkansas debate altogether.

Fortunately, my cowardice did not extend that far. I watched the whole thing, and never came close to tuning out.

Tom didn’t put a foot wrong. He was on message and his delivery was stellar.

Without overdoing it, Tom played up his status as the son of an Arkansas farmer and an Arkansas school teacher, and as a veteran of the Iraq war. He effectively hammered Pryor as a consistent supporter Obama and the decisive vote in favor of Obamacare.

Other than his definition of the middle class, Pryor debated well too. But he appeared desperate. When pressed to show that he isn’t simply a tool of Obama, the best he could do was to assert rather plaintively “you know me,” and cite unnamed “experts” who allegedly consider him independent.

Tom kept bringing the debate back to reality by citing Pryor’s voting record, including, of course, his crucial vote for Obamacare and his votes for budgets that increase spending while slashing the military’s share.

Pryor’s desperation was manifested most starkly by his repeated assertion that Tom is the instrument of the “billionaires” who are backing his campaign. Over and over, Pryor attributed Tom’s votes to the alleged dictates of these billionaires.

Each vote was, of course, consistent with standard Reaganite conservatism. But for the left, Reaganism was itself nothing more than a conspiracy of billionaires.

I assume that Pryor’s preposterous “billionaire” conspiracy theory has tested well for him. Otherwise, why would a grown man want to sound like a member of “Occupy Wall Street’s” most vulgarly leftist wing?

But I suspect that the theme is mostly about (1) rallying the base and (2) having some sort of counter to Tom’s theme that “Pryor equals Obama.” Unfortunately for Pryor, Tom has data — Pryor’s voting record — on his side. Pryor has zilch.

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