Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation
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CLEVELAND — Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Trump advisor Bossert says to test the well, not ill; Senate standoff on next relief bill Trump's ambitious infrastructure vision faces Senate GOP roadblock  GOP lawmaker touts bill prohibiting purchases of drugs made in China 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.

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“The Democrats for eight years have tried to take us backwards, and [electing] Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden releases plans to expand Medicare, forgive student debt The Memo: Sanders's influence endures as campaign ends The two infectious diseases spreading across America 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.  

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“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 PryorCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Tom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 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 ScottThe Hill's 12:30 Report: US braces for 'hardest' week yet How much damage? The true cost of the Senate's coronavirus relief bill Senate unanimously passes T coronavirus stimulus package 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 GowdySunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for another week fighting the coronavirus, seek to curb fallout GOP lawmaker shows off AR-15 in office, challenges Biden to 'come and take it' Sunday shows preview: 2020 Democrats jockey for top spot ahead of Nevada caucuses 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 myth about Puerto Rican statehood that won't go away Overnight Defense: Republicans sound alarm on Taliban deal | Trump speaks with Taliban leader | 19 states sue over border wall funding | Pentagon pushes back on NY Times report about coronavirus response House Republicans sound the alarm on Taliban deal 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."