AUDIO OBTAINED FROM SOURCE WHO WAS PRESENT.
SENATE CANDIDATES PANEL
TOM COTTON, JONI ERNST, AND CORY GARDNER
June 16, 2014
P R O C E E D I N G S
JEFF CRANK: Doug Ducey is a great leader, and, uh, we’ve got — we’re joined right now by a few other great leaders, uh, in, in our states in the case of Joni Ernst, and in Washington, D.C. in the case of Congressmen Tom Cotton and Cory Gardner.
I want to quickly introduce our panelists. Congressman Tom Cotton is a U.S. Army veteran who served both in Iraq and Afghanistan. He graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law, and he also happens to be a candidate for U.S. Senate in Arkansas. Tom, thanks for joining us.
Uh, Joni Ernst is a state senator, and she’s a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard. She served in Iraq. Uh, she’s a candidate for U.S. Senate from Iowa. And incidentally I guess I just (inaudible), but apparently you can castrate a hog.
JEFF CRANK: You don’t normally use that in an introduction, but it was appropriate here. And Congressman Cory Gardner, uh, is a long-time friend of mine, representing Colorado’s 4th Congressional District. He serves on the House Commerce Committee. He’s been a leader really on free market, uh, energy issues, and he’s also a candidate for the United States Senate. Thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.
JEFF CRANK: All right. So I’m going to start with you, Tom. This is a pretty tough group of investors that we have here, so —
TOM COTTON: Naturally.
JEFF CRANK: So, naturally I’m going to ask some tough questions. I’ll start by playing devil’s advocate — you know we have a range of donors here. Some are the sort of traditional Republican donors who give money to those sorts of causes, and others are more purist Libertarians, uh, who question really the efficacy of getting involved in politics. And many, quite frankly, feel burned by supporting Republicans in the past.
So, Tom, what would you say to those who are skeptical? Uh, why is having a majority of Republicans in the Senate so important for saving the country, and what difference can you possibly make with a big government threat to our democracy?
TOM COTTON: Jeff, thanks for having me, and thanks for asking the tough questions. Uh, I’ll, I’ll just take them, take them in turn. Um, I, I think a lot of you are right to feel burned after the performance of Republican candidates around the country over the last two election cycles. When I was in the Army, uh, I spent about a year and a half at Arlington National Cemetery (inaudible) tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and my soldiers always wanted to go to the weight room in the morning, uh, and I always wanted them to go running (inaudible). And I’d tell them, I said it’s, it’s not about (inaudible), it’s about torque. They want to go and do like bicep curls, bench presses so they can impress women on the weekends (inaudible). Uh, and I would try to tell them (inaudible). I had to run a lot (inaudible), but I never got attacked by an armed bench press.
TOM COTTON: Now, there are a lot of candidates — there are a lot of candidates that look great on paper. Uh, they appear to look great, but they just don’t perform. I think that’s different this year, though, and I think we’ve got some evidence on this stage. Joni and I met in Albuquerque at the conference last August. I was just a couple days away from declaring my campaign.
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TOM COTTON: They claim that the House Republicans are the party of no. The problem is with the House, they’ve got a fever. If, if we win six, or I hope seven, eight, nine Senate seats, in a smash victory, the kind the Democrats had in 2006, how can the President legitimately claim anymore that the problem is in the Congress? What he’s really saying is the problem is the people who elected that Congress and that Senate. It’s the American people who have let him down and who’ve (inaudible). That’s not going to sell with this electorate.
JEFF CRANK: As Marc and Tim showed earlier, you’ve seen a pretty dramatic shift in the 2014 political landscape. I think it’s fair to say you’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations, really going from a little-known, uh, person with little, uh, name recognition to winning your primary by a landslide. I was hoping you’d cross 35 percent on election night, and you ended up getting 58 percent, 56. So what’s the public at right now? How did you capitalize on that with the campaign across the state?
JONI ERNST: Well, first, I want to take a quick time out. And you’re absolutely correct, that um, as Tom mentioned earlier, the, the first time I was introduced to this group was a year ago, August, in New Mexico, and I was not known at that time. A little known state senator from a very rural part of Iowa, uh, known through my National Guard service and some circles in Iowa. But the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory. And it started a very strong victory that we’ve progressive, progressively built upon throughout the campaign cycle.
So really, the folks in this room that got my start, so having folks that, that backed me in this election cycle and primary. It was a five-way primary, a very tough cycle. I was (inaudible) initially and was outspent uh, by millions of dollars in the primary. But we were able to capitalize on my strong record in the state senate, um, rolling back taxes in the State of Iowa, removing, uh, burdensome rules and regulations, and doing the right thing for the Iowa people.
And something also that has been talked about a lot in a number of these sessions so far, and Mr. Murray talked about it last night, too, was the fact that I remain connected to my community and that strong sense of community, making sure that you (inaudible) know that you truly do care about them and what we believe is successful in the United States of America, being able to convey that to those people.
Um, relaying the message to the community, showing that we care is extremely important, so we, we show that. Um, I was able to show that across the state of Iowa. And it was a steady climb then, and we had a great victory, five-way primary, 56 percent of the vote. And we’ve been able to push that on now into the general election cycle, again by showing that I care about the people of Iowa, that our free market principles are really very successful in the State of Iowa.
Iowa is one of the best (inaudible) states in the United States, and I’m fortunate to have been a part of that. So we are using that to our advantage. And there have been three public polls released since the primary two weeks ago, and in all three of those polls, I am leading my Democratic opponent anywhere from one to six points. So we have a great (inaudible).
JONI ERNST: So it, it really goes back to Iowa common sense, Iowa values. That’s something that I talk about a lot. And many of you are familiar with Bruce Braley and the fact that he was tearing down farmers in the State of Iowa. During the government shutdown in October, the greatest concern he had was the fact that he had do his own laundry. The House wasn’t providing clean towels in the gymnasium any longer.
So we are showing that this a gentleman who is so disconnected from Iowa values, and here’s a small-town Iowa farm girl who had to work for everything that she has achieved. We are going to paint some very clear differences in this general election. And this is the thing that we are going to take back, that it started right here with all of your folks, this wonderful network, and we’re going to continue that on through the general election. So thank, thank you so much for having me today.
JEFF CRANK: Now, this morning we heard from a lot of different presentations the opposition is throwing everything they have at holding on to the Senate. I think a lot of candidates are facing funding (inaudible). But how are third party groups in this network, particularly that are focused on issue (inaudible) and out mobilizing, mobilizing voters, how are they making a, a, a big difference? And uh, you know, cite some examples of that.
CORY GARDNER: Absolutely, Jeff. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be with you this morning and today. And it’s always great as a Colorado guy to come to California because you get to drive down the street and see the names of businesses that will soon be moving to Colorado.
CORY GARDNER: Recruiting while we’re here. But there were two people who were really excited when I announced for United States Senate. The first one was the station manager at Channel 9 in Denver because he knew the activity that would be taking place on the airwaves. The second one was somebody right on stage with us, Tom Cotton, because he knew some of the air war would be moving into Colorado, and I think that’s where, where I want to start.
When you look at this race and how the races around the country have evolved over the past year, it started out with six seats that we need to take in the United States Senate to regain the majority. And we have six competitive races (inaudible) we have to win every single race to retake the majority.
And thanks to people like Joni, thanks to people like Tom and people around the country who have stood up, uh, to run for the Senate, now all of a sudden you’re looking at 12, 13 competitive Senate races, who broaden the playing field, who give us a greater chance to win, who allow us to move back and forth and to target more seats, and being more effective in our strategy and how we place resources. And that’s where it comes down to the third party difference.
Look, there was an article in the paper this morning about the amount of money that has been spent in total across the country. And you’re looking at some of the three races that have the highest amounts of dollars that have been spent, I believe. And, Joni, I don’t remember if it was in your race or not, but I know Tom and I have been outspent by Democrats on third party efforts.
And they know, though, that they do it because it is the direction of this country, you know, the stakes — who will define the American Dream. That’s why they have engaged at the level that they have. The outside groups who are the ones who try to scare people in Colorado from voting for a Republican candidate, like they tried to four years ago and were successful four years ago in the race.
They are going to continue to go around in this country running October-style campaign ads in May, June, July, and August. In my race alone, they have already dumped about 5,000 points, TV points, against me in negative advertising. And do you know what? They haven’t moved the numbers a bit. And that’s because the people of Colorado understand our ability in the State of Colorado to change the direction of this country.
Now, the third party groups are also very active on the ground. I think you asked for specific examples. Let me just give you a, a, a snapshot of Colorado. In a midterm election, we know the electorate of Colorado is, is very conducive to Republican success. You know, this is the state that Barack Obama wo-, won in 2008, won again in 2012. He accepted the Democratic nomination at Mile High Stadium in 2008. Remember the Roman columns behind the president? In fact, I made the comment the other day years from now the only thing they might discover about the legacy of the Obama Administration will be an archaeological dig in Denver where they find the Roman columns.
Um, but the, the — if you look at the state, though, we know that in off-year elections, it is — it is much different. Because of that, the third parties have mobilized to a degree that we haven’t seen because they are trying to replace the, the mobilization effort of 2012, the President’s get-out-the-vote effort, their voter turnout effort. So just looking at Colorado over the past month, you’ve seen announcements from Tom Steyer’s group who will be doing the ground game and TV advertisements in Colorado.
Now, Mark Udall is somebody who voted with the President 99 percent of the time, and he’s being rewarded for his loyalty. We’ve seen Mayor Michael Bloomberg come into Colorado and open up offices in Colorado. As you know, Jeff, Michael Bloomberg’s success rate in Colorado hasn’t exactly been, been stellar. So because of him, like I said, you know we’ve seen the Gabby Giffords anti-gun movement is going to come in to Colorado to spend money. The League of Conservation Voter Action group is going to come in and organize the ground game in Colorado. We’ve seen the Climate Action folks come in to Colorado and organize because they know the threat that we pose. The road to the glory travels directly through Colorado. If we win Colorado, we win 51, 52, 53 seats, and that’s how we change the course of this country.
Now I’m going to — so the, the third party efforts know that is what it’s going to take to win Colorado. We’ll raise somewhere between $10 and $12 million in my campaign. The — my opposition is going to raise somewhere between $15 and $20 million. But just the other day I heard the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee telling a reporter that they believe the race for Colorado will cost $75 million dollars in total. So that’s the gap we need to make up by, by people from different parts of the country (inaudible).
And last night — incredible opportunity hearing Charles Murray talk about something Alexis Tocqueville said. And I (Inaudible) Alexis Tocqueville, but he talks about the exceptionalism of America, where he says — he said the reason why Europe — the world powers of the time (inaudible) United States wondered how we became who we are, it was because they noticed the notion within every single one of us in this country hasn’t (inaudible). It hasn’t (inaudible) well in every American (inaudible).
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JEFF CRANK: We’ve talked a lot about, and I guess this is really for everybody, and we’ll go quickly so we can leave some time for audience questions. But we talk a lot about 2014. 2014 is important. But the long-term is important, too. And what can this network be doing really to focus on the success beyond 2014? Uh, who are the voters? What are the issues? And really what (inaudible)?
TOM COTTON: (Inaudible). But in the long term support to build communities (inaudible) shared concerns. Uh, we’ve been doing it in (inaudible). Americans for Prosperity in Arkansas has played a critical role in turning our state from a one party Democratic state (inaudible) building the kind of constant engagement to get people in the state involved in their communities. That people who were not involved became voters in 2010, and became activists in 2012, and now they’re running for the county commission, or the state house, or the state senate. It’s that kind of sustained, continuous organization that third party groups really can help, uh, promote because they have a life beyond this election cycle, whereas Cotton for Senate, or Ernst for Senate, or Gardner for Senate is focused on that one day sale on November 4th.
And you, you see the success in Arkansas where we’ve gone from a one party Democratic state in just five years to a Republican Party state.
JEFF CRANK: Joni?
JONI ERNST: Absolutely. And in a state like Iowa, if I can use Iowa as a specific example of the long term, right now we have a Republican senator and a Democratic senator. And with the Democratic senator retiring, the opportunity to replace him with, with another Republican senator. We are setting the stage for Iowa as the first in the Nation’s caucus that all of our presidential hopefuls come, come to. We’re setting the stage in 2014 with a Republican victory, so that likelihood is in 2016 we can, uh, go red as a state and assist any Republican nominee from Iowa.
So we’re setting the stage for the presidency. So as we look long term, we can’t disengage in any of the state. We have to stay active. If (inaudible) for victory at many different levels. So I would encourage everybody simply to stay engaged.
JEFF CRANK: I want to — want to leave enough time for questions. Cory, you’re not in the Senate yet. You have one minute.
CORY GARDNER: Just taking a look at Colorado, in 2014, if we win Colorado, we overturn the narrative the Democrats are trying build about the interior Rocky Mountain states, that you can’t win statewide in the Rocky Mountain West anymore. We can defeat that notion. We can flip it upside down in Colorado by winning in 2014, making the pathway for whoever our nominee is in 2016.
We can win Colorado. We can win Arizona. We can win New Mexico. The Rocky Mountain states, they’re not blue. We can win. We just have to have the right message, the right candidates to make sure that we’re (inaudible).
JEFF CRANK: Great, great. Well, let’s open it up, Kevin.
KEVIN GENTRY: We have time for a couple questions. We’ll start right over here. That’s it, come up on the side. Please introduce yourself.
SPEAKER: Mark Stern. Um, what, what are the implications, to the gentlemen in the House, of Eric Cantor’s defeat, um, and what are the implications, um, short term, long term?
CORY GARDNER: Well, I think if you’re an incumbent member of the United States Senate or the United States Hou- House, you better not take anything for granted. You better be home. You better be doing your work. And I think what it says to my challenger, he can’t look at as if he’s a better candidate. He better look at it as a defeat as an incumbent.
And so, if I were Mark Udall, I’d be very afraid of what (inaudible) and said about long-term established legacy names in United States politics.
TOM COTTON: Yeah, I, I would say that as well. I mean, as I mentioned (inaudible) a year there wasn’t a Pryor on the ballot during August in Arkansas. Uh, so Mark Pryor is clearly the face of Washington and Arkansas (inaudible) also in Congress. I’ve only been there for 18 months, however.
And I think that’s the, the major reason that Eric lost that race is as the Majority Leader, um, of our party, he was known as the face of Washington, and the voters clearly (inaudible). The specific issue that came up, that boiled to a head during his race was immigration, and he endorsed immigration principles and supported a version of amnesty. And we have the immigration crisis on the border because of the President’s administrative actions. And candidates like Mark Udall and uh, Mark Pryor voted for the Senate (inaudible) immigration bill. And I think that’s going to come back to haunt them as well.
KEVIN GENTRY: One more? All right. Well, thank you all very much.
(END OF PANEL.)