If you’re running for office, and you served in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, how much do you talk about it? That’s simple: You talk about it all the time. Up to now, I thought the exemplars of this strategy were failed 2008 congressional candidate Ashwin Madia and failed 2012 candidate for U.S. Senate Josh Mandel. A sampling of their ads:
It’s an unrebuttable line: Unless your opponent also served, you’re reminding voters that you’ve risked your life for your country and that guy—who knows about that guy? Rep. Tom Cotton’s announcement speech for the Arkansas U.S. Senate race sets the new standard for the tactic. The following are all the references he made to his war record.
- “I volunteered for the Army because of the 9/11 attacks and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
- “My folks supported me because they knew it was the right thing to do. They knew I joined the Army because of the very lessons I learned from them and from growing up in a place like Dardanelle. I joined the Army to serve our country and to defend our freedom overseas.”
- “I don’t have a lot of seniority in Washington. I don’t think that’s a bad thing these days. But I have served you in a different way in faraway places.”
- “In the Army, they trained us that leaders don’t sit quietly on the backbench hoping someone else will solve a problem. Real leaders do their duty, take responsibility, and tackle problems—even if that means, as we said in the Army, sometimes doing the hard right over the easy wrong.”
- “You all—family, friends, all of Dardanelle—you’ve been with me from the beginning, back when I was playing ball for the Sand Lizards, when I was overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, or when I ran my first campaign last year. I need you there now, all the way to the end.”
- This is a mission briefing, just as sure as when I briefed missions from a map on the hood of a Humvee in Iraq. I’m asking you to commit to this mission.”
Given the new Republican leaning of the state, I’m fairly confident Cotton can basically say this for fifteen months and win.