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Political Grit

Meet Tom Cotton, from Yell County, Arkansas, near Dardanelle.

Aug 8, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 44 • By KENNETH Y. TOMLINSON
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Last November changed all that. The GOP captured a Senate seat and two House seats and made record gains down-ballot. Today Democrats hold only Ross’s district in the House, and in the Senate, Mark Pryor’s seat looks vulnerable in 2014.

As soon as Ross announced he would not run again, a host of Democrats began jockeying for the nomination. Cotton supporters are confident he can secure the GOP nomination. Beth Anne Rankin, a former Miss Arkansas and Huckabee administration appointee, is another potential candidate, but she managed to get only 40 percent of the vote against Ross last year.

The list of well-known conservatives preparing to support Cotton reads like a Who’s Who of the movement. His former professors at Claremont are as much in awe at the prospects of Cotton in Congress as his old sergeant in Iraq. “You have to remember that this young man interrupted a fast-track life to study the Federalist Papers,” explains Charles Kesler, now editor of the Claremont Review of Books. “And that was before he interrupted his life to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Cotton, meanwhile, is as comfortable talking about domestic policy and the need to restrict the growth of government as he is in assessing American strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is an ease about his manner that masks his intellectual prowess and the courage that marked his service.

Arkansas novelist Charles Portis managed to get a lot of life out of his classic tale of True Grit. But as Tom Cotton begins his campaign for Congress, many are left with a sense that in the years ahead the country could hear a lot more about another extraordinary figure from Yell County near Dardanelle.

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson is a former editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest.

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