Freshman Rep. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill Trump seeks to cement hold on GOP Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues MORE (R-Ark.) officially launched his campaign against Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorEverybody wants Joe Manchin Cotton glides to reelection in Arkansas Live updates: Democrats fight to take control of the Senate MORE (D-Ark.) Tuesday evening in his hometown of Dardanelle, Ark., setting up one of the most closely watched Senate match-ups of the 2014 election cycle.


Cotton laid out an anti-Washington, anti-Obama message consistent with his hard-charging conservative views, blasting "crony capitalists" throughout the speech and tying Pryor to President Obama and his signature healthcare law, both of which are deeply unpopular in the state.

"It's time to say 'enough.' Arkansans need a senator who will stand with them and stand up to Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Americans have decided to give professionals a chance Artist behind golden Trump statue at CPAC says he made it in Mexico MORE, a senator who will say 'no more' to the crony capitalism, the giveaways, the reckless spending, the unfair taxes, the job-killing regulations, and the concentration of unaccountable, unconstitutional power in Washington," he said. "Arkansans need a senator who won’t just stand by and accept the status quo.  I will be that senator."

Cotton's announcement has been long expected. He's been mulling a run for months, and sources close to Cotton told The Hill last week that he'd made up his mind.

The former Army Ranger ripped Pryor, accusing him of abandoning Arkansas for his party.

"Mark's been running for office for almost 25 years. Every time, he says 'Arkansas comes first.' It’s not so. Over the last four-and-a-half years, for Mark Pryor, Barack Obama comes first," he said. 

"Mark Pryor is the reason ObamaCare is the law today. He could’ve stopped it, but he stood with Obama instead. Mark Pryor voted for Obama's wasteful stimulus that added almost a trillion dollars to the debt, without lasting job growth. Mark Pryor voted for Obama’s amnesty plan for illegal immigrants that will hurt Arkansas families by driving up unemployment and driving down wages, without securing the border. ... Mark Pryor doesn’t put Arkansas first any more — Mark Pryor puts Barack Obama first."

The campaign is expected to be a hard-fought one, and most observers view it as a must-win for the GOP if the party hopes to win back Senate control. A number of recent polls in recent days show a close race.