Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the Republican Party does not have a single leader when asked if former President Donald Trump should remain as the head of the GOP.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we go now to Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who was a regular on the 2022 campaign trail boosting GOP candidates. He’s out with a new book called “Only the Strong,” and he joins us this morning from McLean, Virginia. Good morning to you, Senator. And on this Veterans Day weekend, I do want to thank you for your past military service.
COTTON: Well, thank you, Margaret. That’s kind of you, and thanks to all our veterans for their service in all of our nation’s wars.
BRENNAN: Let me get to the story of the moment. Democrats faced historic headwinds. Eight out of 10 Americans said they felt it was out of control. Republicans had issues like economy and crime really break in their favor. President Biden has a low approval rating. How did Republicans end up with this complete disappointment?
COTTON: Well, Margaret, I wouldn’t say it was a complete disappointment. On the one hand, we had strong Republican leaders running on positive records of accomplishments who won very big victories. If you look at governors, like Ron DeSantis in Florida, Brian Kemp in Georgia, Mike DeWine in Ohio, Kim Reynolds in Iowa, Greg Abbott in Texas — we had senators with the same victories, like Marco Rubio in Florida, and Tim Scott in South Carolina, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. But on the other hand, obviously, we hoped that we would have won more seats. I think the lessons in our victories can be applied to some places where we came up a little bit short. We need to focus on serious substantive accomplishments and issues like crime, like our wide-open border, like addressing runaway inflation. Even in places where we came up a little bit short, like Lee Zeldin’s race for governor in New York, he performed very well compared to Republicans in recent elections, and he probably helped save the House of Representatives by bringing four new Republican Congressman-elect across the finish line in New York. I think we have lessons in the places we had victories that we can apply to places where we were disappointed.
BRENNAN: Sure, but you lost the ballgame in the Senate. Karl Rove blamed candidate quality and specifically put the blame on former President Trump. He said, “Mr. Trump turned what should have been a referendum on Mr. Biden’s terrible record into a choice between himself and the current president. As in 2020, lots of voters chose Mr. Biden.” Should Mr. Trump remain the leader of the Republican Party?
COTTON: Well, Margaret, when the party- when any party is out of power, as Republicans are now, we don’t have a single leader. The former president is obviously very popular with many of our voters–
BRENNAN: He’s the center of gravity.
COTTON: But we also have important other leaders as well, like some of those victors I just mentioned earlier, like Brian Kemp in Georgia, Ron DeSantis in Florida. Last year, you had Glen Younkin have a great victory in a bluish democratic state like Virginia. I hope to remain a leader in the United States Senate as well, in addition to people like some of those I just mentioned who were reelected, like Tim Scott. So, when you’re in opposition, you don’t have a single leader. That won’t be the case until we’re through the ’24- ’24 nominating season, and we have- we have a new nominee.
BRENNAN: You said you’re not going to run for president in 2024. The former president says he intends to announce he’s running on Tuesday. Should he be the automatic nominee, or should he face a primary?
COTTON: Well, Margaret, since I opted against being a candidate in 2024, I- I don’t plan to be a pundit or a strategist–
BRENNAN: Well, you just throw out a whole bunch of names of guys who might be running for president, Senator. Are you endorsing them?
COTTON: And I know almost- I know almost all of them personally. And I respect their accomplishments, not just their big victories on Tuesday or last year in Glenn’s case, but also their accomplishments in office. But you know, I know everyone already wants to focus on 2024. I just want to remind everyone that we’re still in the middle of the 2022 midterm, because we’re in overtime in Georgia. And the most important thing we can do is elect Herschel Walker to make sure that we can keep the pressure on Democrats in the Senate not to veer far to the left, as they have over the last two years. That’s where I think everyone should remain focused for these next three weeks.
BRENNAN: Should leadership elections in the Senate be delayed until December, and should Mitch McConnell remain as Republican leader in the Senate?
COTTON: Well, I don’t see why we would delay the election, since all five or six of our leadership elections are uncontested. You know, the great wrestling champion Ric Flair used to say, to be the man, you got to beat the man. And so far, no one’s had the nerve to step forward and challenge Senator McConnell. So, I support Senator McConnell. I support the other slate of candidates for our leadership elections. I think it’s better that we move forward with these elections, so we can focus again on the Georgia runoff.