Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation
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CLEVELAND — Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonHillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters Lawmakers set to host fundraisers focused on Nats' World Series trip MORE kicked off his stint at the Republican National Convention by having breakfast with the South Carolina delegation as the up-and-coming senator keeps an eye on a potential 2020 presidential bid.

He gave a broad denouncement of Democratic foreign policy while pitching the GOP as the party of progress.  

“The Democrats may say, 'America is not exceptional, there is no special place for us in the world or in God’s plan. We need to be more like Europe here at home, be more deferential to the world,' " Cotton said.

“The Democrats for eight years have tried to take us backwards, and [electing] Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJill Stein: 'I am not a Russian spy' Trump criticizes Clinton for suggesting Jill Stein was Russian asset Graham: I'm seeking to make Trump successful 'but not at all costs' MORE for four more years will as well. I, like you, want to take America forward. I want to advance.” 

To demonstrate his point, he listed electoral gains the party has made in state and federal legislatures, as well as governorships. 

“We don’t have to show that we can govern, we have show that we are America’s governing party,” he said.

He also laid into Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, as the common enemy at the party’s convention here.

“Look at [the Democratic primaries], they had a choice between two socialists, and they chose the one under FBI investigation,” he said.  

“I know the FBI has said it can only access a few of Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails. ... It’s getting so dire, I think they may have to ask [Russian President] Vladimir Putin for the backup copy of her emails.”  

Just 39-years-old, the Army veteran has quickly climbed the party’s ladder after a high-profile victory against former Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE in 2014. It became clear in the opening minutes that Cotton has one eye on the South Carolina — an important state in GOP presidential politics —as he began his speech with some lighthearted jabs. 

“South Carolina holds a special spot in my heart,” he said, noting that he started Army basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C. That fact was not lost on the crowd, which politely cheered and clapped with each reference to their home state.  

"I did have the experience of my worst haircut ever being in South Carolina at basic training. It makes Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottBlood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure Rand Paul: 'We deserve to know' identity of Trump whistleblower Bottom Line MORE look like he has a full head of flowing hair. Of course, neither one of us could hold a candle to Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyGowdy remembers political opponent, good friend Elijah Cummings Hill editor-in-chief: 'Hard to imagine' House leadership without Cummings Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 MORE and his haircut,” he added of the shaved-head South Carolina senator and the congressman known for his wispy hair. 

“We kid because we care.”

By addressing the South Carolina delegation’s foreign policy breakfast, Cotton had a chance to familiarize the Republican activists with his policy milieu, which he will likely trumpet if he runs for the White House in four years. 

He’s already shown a keen interest in the state, which traditionally holds the third nominating event in the GOP primary calendar. He spoke this past May at the state party’s premiere Silver Elephant dinner.

The implications of Cotton's appearance were not lost on the delegates themselves, many of whom lauded Cotton as part of the party's future.

Rep. Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonThe Hill Interview: Sanford says Trump GOP doing 'serious brand destruction' GOP lawmaker: 'Dangerous' abuse of Interpol by Russia, China, Venezuela Washington Post fact-checker gives Plame three Pinocchios for Libby claim MORE (S.C.) agreed, specifically noting Cotton's May appearance at the state party event.  

"South Carolina really has, in presidential primaries, established itself as a gateway to establishing a broad-based, successful candidate," he said.  

"Sen. Cotton has such a background, such a substantive individual. ... He is making his name known."