The Mt. Pleasant Republican has a meager four years under his belt but when he strolled into the news conference the other day with all of his colleagues standing behind him, there was a huge placard on an easel right next to his podium. Hidden behind the billboard were members of his caucus.
Mr. Cotter grabbed the sign, carried it off stage, thus revealing his colleagues who were once stuck behind the sign.
It was then onto the GOP agenda of 78 items for the new year. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something to make the Democrats blue.
Reporters, always drilling for conflict, zeroed in on the caucus desire to roll back the income tax.
Ah. Ha. The governor is against that given a $550 million deficit.
So, Mr. Speaker?
He revealed in his maiden news conference that he was deliberate, measured and, one could conclude, he would not be easily rattled.
On the tax question he was all three.
He acknowledged now was not the time for a rollback given the deficit but hopefully later on.
Was he aware the governor disagreed?
He said yes but, not dwelling on the negative, he quickly segued into a pledge to work in a positive way with the governor even swiping the gov's favorite line about relentless positive action. His colleagues loved it as he stymied the media effort at wedge driving.
Later another attempt. Asked if the GOP caucus would endorse the governor's sales tax hike for the roads - the Speaker did not wince.
No, he said. What he didn't say was that his caucus is badly split on the issue and for him to "twist arms", as he put it, to help the governor was a non-starter. Even a rookie speaker realizes he works for the caucus and not the guy in the gov's seat.
Then he advised the members not to "take shots at each other" if they disagreed on the sales tax hike.
What kind of shots are you referring to? a reporter inquired.
"From who?" the speaker dodged the bullet as his colleagues laughed.
"The people taking the shots," was the rejoinder.
And with, the Speaker called an end to the news conference.
Ditto on the smooth move.