Tom Cotton vs. the NRSC

GOP spokesman’s questioning of Mark Pryor’s faith causes uproar — from fellow Republican’s campaign.

PAC your bags: Dayspring leaves Cantor's office.
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
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Shane Goldmacher
Dec. 4, 2013, 1:04 p.m.

It’s nev­er good when a party com­mit­tee is de­nounced by a mem­ber of its own party. But that’s what happened Wed­nes­day, when the Sen­ate cam­paign of GOP Rep. Tom Cot­ton of Arkan­sas de­nounced as “bizarre and of­fens­ive” an at­tack from the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee on the re­li­gious faith of Sen. Mark Pry­or, D-Ark.

Pry­or, widely be­lieved to be the na­tion’s most vul­ner­able in­cum­bent Demo­crat, launched a tele­vi­sion ad on Wed­nes­day clutch­ing a Bible and call­ing it “my com­pass, my North Star.”

NR­SC Com­mu­nic­a­tions Dir­ect­or Brad Dayspring, known across Wash­ing­ton for his ag­gress­ive style, wrote a blog post about some of Pyror’s past com­ments about the Bible, in­clud­ing a state­ment last year that it “is really not a rule book for polit­ic­al is­sues.”

“So is the Bible Mark Pry­or’s com­pass, provid­ing the ‘com­fort and guid­ance to do what’s best for Arkan­sas?’ Or is it really not a good rule book for polit­ic­al is­sues and de­cisions made in the Sen­ate? Guess it de­pends on which Mark Pry­or that you ask,” Dayspring wrote.

Pre­dict­ably, Pry­or’s cam­paign ob­jec­ted. More in­ter­est­ingly, so too did Cot­ton’s cam­paign team.

“That is an in­cred­ibly bizarre and of­fens­ive email from the NR­SC’s press sec­ret­ary,” Cot­ton spokes­man Dav­id Ray said in an email. “We should all agree that Amer­ica is bet­ter off when all our pub­lic of­fi­cials in both parties have the hu­mil­ity to seek guid­ance from God.”

It’s re­l­at­ively rare for a can­did­ate to openly re­buke his own party com­mit­tee. But Dayspring’s quick sharp tongue and quick re­torts have already caused some head­aches for the NR­SC. Earli­er this year, he said Ken­tucky Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate can­did­ate Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes was an “empty dress.” Demo­crats have pounced on the re­mark and used it to build the case that Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell and the GOP cam­paign are “sex­ist.”

After Cot­ton’s de­nun­ci­ation, Dayspring said in an email, “Tom Cot­ton is a good man who puts Arkan­sas first.”

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