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Where he has been most outspoken, however, is in the realm of foreign policy.

When it comes to the small-government, cost-cutting enthusiasm that has made him the darling of Club for Growth types, Cotton sticks to his guns, even at the risk of ticking off constituents back home.

Despite Arkansas’s dependence on agriculture (which accounts for roughly a quarter of the state’s economy), Cotton was among the House members to tank the Farm Bill by uncoupling it from food-stamp funding.

Even setting aside Pryor’s handicap as the lone remaining Dem in the congressional delegation of a state that’s fast trending red and that really really doesn’t like President Obama, Cotton is a genuinely impressive political specimen.

The lanky, whip-smart 37-year-old has a CV that is, as GOP strategist Ralph Reed puts it, “out of central casting”: two degrees from Harvard (undergrad and law), a stint at the Claremont Graduate University (including a Publius fellowship in conservative political thought at the Claremont Institute), a federal clerkship, a turn at the crème de la crème consultancy Mc Kinsey & Co., plus—and here’s where it gets almost too good to be true—an Army stint that featured tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

And Mark Pryor will need to pull some big-ass rabbits out of his hat if he wants to hold on to his seat.

That said, taking the long view, Cotton does nothing to move the GOP away from its problematic image as the last bastion of traditional, white, disproportionately Southern men.

His manner may not be as angry as some, but his policies are as conservative as they come.

If anything, his foreign-policy positions would move the party not forward but backward, toward the neocon heyday of the Bush-Cheney White House.

In particular, Bill Kristol and The Weekly Standard have developed a big ol’ man crush on Cotton, emitting a stream of glowing coverage. Whether opposing Chuck Hagel’s nomination to head the Pentagon, dismantling Sen.

Ted Cruz’s Rand Paulian take on drone policy at a closed-door AEI retreat in March, or simply slamming the Obama administration for not keeping America safe, Cotton is an eloquent spokesman for the cause: passionate, informed, and meticulous, yet not a hyperventilating bomb thrower.

And, in his October profile, Barnes touted Cotton’s “bright prospects for gaining still higher office,” quoting a Democratic player in Texarkana who declared that Cotton was “going to be our congressman, then our senator, then our president.” (Two down ...) Maybe.