EXCLUSIVE – Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas says that "family was really the only consideration" in his decision not to seek the presidency in the upcoming 2024 White House race.
"This is not the right time for our family for me to commit to a six-to-seven day a week campaign for the next two years," Cotton told Fox News in his first interview since the news broke on Sunday that the senator from Arkansas took himself out of the running for 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Cotton, a rising star in the GOP and Army veteran who served in combat in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, had been reaching out to donors, supporters and aides in recent days to inform them that he would not launch a presidential campaign. Cotton’s news, first reported by Politico and confirmed by Fox News, makes him the first major potential Republican 2024 White House contender to announce they are stepping aside.
The 45-year-old senator and his wife Anna are the parents of two young boys.
"My boys are age seven and five. They’re old enough to know that dad’s gone and be sad about it but not old enough to understand the purpose and why it all matters and why the sacrifice is worth it," Cotton explained. "I am pretty sure Republican voters can find another nominee, but I know that my sons can’t find another dad for the next two years."
Additionally, the senator noted that "over the next two years my seven-year-old will learn to hit the fastball and my five-year-old will learn to read, and I want to be there to teach them both."
However, Cotton is leaving the door wide open to a future White House run, emphasizing "this is a decision only about this 2024 race and this time for my family. We’ll make a decision about future races in the future, especially as my boys get older and understand more about why I do the work I do and what it means for them and for our country."
"I’m just closing the chapter on the 2024 race right now and looking forward to continuing to work in the Senate with the new Republican majority and watching the 2024 race unfold and hoping we take back the White House," Cotton added.
Cotton has made numerous stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – the first four states to hold contests in the GOP presidential nominating calendar – the past year and a half, as he’s crisscrossed the country campaigning on behalf of fellow Republicans running in the midterm elections.
The senator met in June with top donors and advisers at the Hay Adams Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. Sources attending that meeting confirmed to Fox News that Cotton said he would not defer to any other potential candidate — including former President Trump — when it comes to his own decision about launching a national campaign. He was also planning a post-midterms retreat with top donors, advisers and aides at a Virginia retreat, which was seen as a move towards launching a White House bid.
Trump has repeated teased a White House run for over a year and a half. Sources in the former president’s political orbit told Fox News on Friday that a potential 2024 announcement could possibly happen during the week starting on Monday, Nov. 14 — just a week after the midterms, but the sources caution that things are "fluid."
When asked if the increasing likelihood a Trump 2024 campaign was a factor in his decision, Cotton reiterated that "family was the only consideration as my wife and I reflected and prayed on the matter the past few months."
When asked if he would support Trump if the former president decided to launch a third presidential campaign, Cotton answered, "I’ll back the Republican nominee" and added that "for the moment as I close the 2024 chapter for myself, I anticipate focusing on my work in the Senate and letting the campaign unfold on its own dynamic."
Cotton said his current plan is to run for re-election to his Senate seat in 2026 but said he’d consider a cabinet position if a Republican wins back the White House in 2024.
"Under the right circumstances, if a Republican president asked me to consider such a job, I’d of course consider it any time a president asks one to serve the nation," Cotton said. "But for the time being in the foreseeable future, I’m grateful for the people of Arkansas to have trusted me to represent them in the United States Senate and I love working for them every day and look forward to continue doing so."