Tom Cotton will compare Reagan to Trump in speech seen as 2024 launchpad

Arkansas Sen Tom Cotton, a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, will deliver a speech that will compare presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, arguing that the GOP should not pick between the two, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Mr Cotton will deliver the speech on Monday evening at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, often considered a political mecca for conservatives. Republicans who deliver speeches at the library are often seen as future presidential contenders.

“Reagan understood what all Republicans should: We are elected to protect the American people and their prosperity and their freedom,” he told The Journal ahead of his speech. “Both President Reagan and President Trump, who many people say represent these polar opposites between which we must choose, stood in that tradition.”

Mr Cotton has long been a hardliner not only on immigrants who come to the United States illegally, like Mr Trump was, but also on legal immigration. While Mr Reagan and Mr Trump were both Democrats-turned-Republicans who entered politics after their careers in entertainment, they diverged wildly on immigration.

Mr Trump championed a restrictionist immigration policy, supported deporting undocumented immigrants and and called for building a wall along the US-Mexico border. Conversely, Mr Reagan, a former governor of California, signed the the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which offered amnesty to undocumented immigrants who entered the country before 1982.

Mr Cotton said that both Republicans were hardline populists, which is a tradition the GOP should maintain.

“Republicans are the party of the common man. We stand for law and order, military strength, good jobs, high wages and sanity in our culture wars,” he said.

Mr Cotton – who graduated from Harvard Law School, served as an Army Ranger and worked at McKinsey – is often seen as a potential contender for the 2024 Republican nomination for president and has taken a hawkish approach to foreign policy.

Mr Cotton will say that Russian President Vladimir Putin “wagered that if the American president wouldn’t stand up to a depraved gang of seventh-century savages in Afghanistan, there was no way he would stand up to Russia”.

“After all, Joe Biden had signaled weakness, conciliation and appeasement to Putin from the very beginning,” he will say in his address.

Mr Cotton also plans to speak about foreign policy, immigration and trade.

“Our party must reject the ideology of globalism, which claims that wide-open borders and wide-open markets are the path to prosperity for all,” he said. “There is no right of free movement of a foreign people or foreign products into our nation.”

Tom Cotton (Getty Images)

A second-term Republican senator from Arkansas who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, Mr Cotton campaigned aggressively for former Sens David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler before the runoff Senate elections in Georgia last year. He has also visited early contest states like New Hampshire and Nevada and campaigned for candidates.

But unlike fellow potential 2024 contenders Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, Mr Cotton did not object to the 2020 presidential election results.

Rather, after the 6 January riot at the Capitol, Mr Cotton assailed his colleagues without saying their names and said on Fox News that “you have some senators who for political advantage were giving false hope to their supporters, misleading them into thinking that somehow yesterday’s actions in Congress could reverse the results of the election, or even get some kind of emergency audit of the election results”.