Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

More Signs of President Obama’s Re-election

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, July 4, 2011

Additional signs of President Obama’s impending re-election: Discord, turmoil, confusion, tumult and unrest within the Republican party.

July 4, 2011

Time in House Could Be Short for Republican Newcomers


WASHINGTON — Just when freshman House Republicans have finally learned their way to the Cannon Caucus Room, how to vote on a motion to proceed and which commissary serves the best tuna sandwiches, someone back home — worse, someone from their own party — wants to take it all away.

“I am taking a serious look,” said Weston Wamp, who is pondering a primary challenge to Representative Chuck Fleischmann, in his first term from Tennessee. Mr. Wamp said he was inspired by his father, Zach, who served in the House for many years. “My experience through my dad was seeing the very best of what public service can mean.”

It is miles to go before the 2012 Congressional races begin in earnest, but already some of the 87 freshmen who helped the Republicans win back the House last year are bracing for a challenge from within the party. At least half a dozen potential primary challengers to freshmen are considering a run, and there is heated chatter about more.

In some ways, the freshmen are responsible for their own predicament. Many won their seats after successfully challenging establishment Republicans in primaries, proving that a combination of gumption and the right political climate could overcome the advantages of incumbency.

Now, to some of the impatient and ideological voters who sent them to Washington to change things, the new House members may be seen as the establishment, and they face the disconcerting prospect of immediately defending themselves in the political marketplace.

The 2012 primary “started the day I took office,” said Representative Blake Farenthold, who won last year in a heavily Democratic district in South Texas but is now likely to face a Republican primary challenger. “There is this constant pressure for fund-raising. I mean, you’re always worried about who is going to run against you, but I am willing to stand up for what I believe and on my record.”

In many states, Republicans control the once-a-decade process of redrawing Congressional districts, and they are maneuvering to make marginal districts more Republican-friendly. That is meant to shore up incumbents, but it can also make a district more attractive to Republican newcomers.

“We just had a great Republican year,” said Kurt Luidhardt, a political consultant in Indiana who worked for several newcomers in 2010. “So a lot of Republican candidates now want to get in there and run. I would imagine redistricting will inspire a whole host of interesting primary challenges on both sides of the aisle.”

On the flip side, groups aligned with the Tea Party movement, which helped push many new-to-politics candidates into House seats, are disenchanted with some of their new hires and are pondering if they can raise the money, and the firepower, to find someone to take them on.

“I do think it is going to be more competitive,” said Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. “With the freshmen who claim to be Tea Party or claim to support the ideas of the Tea Party movement but haven’t kept their promise, I think it will be tough for them.”

Ms. Martin said she regularly fields e-mails from New York Tea Party groups, as well as others in Georgia and Mississippi, complaining about freshmen House members who voted for a disappointing short-term spending agreement with President Obama that fell short of the party’s budget-cutting goals. “They have broken their promises,” she said. “People are dissatisfied.”

Among the potentially vulnerable members of the class of 2010 is Mr. Farenthold, whose victory was so unexpected that the national party more or less ignored him during the campaign. His race also was so close — he won by 799 votes — that it was called just before the new Congress convened in January. He got the last office available, the palatial space once enjoyed by the senior Democrat he ousted, Solomon P. Ortiz, who had held the seat for nearly 30 years.

Mr. Farenthold, a wealthy former radio talk show host and computer consultant, is known on Capitol Hill less for his legislative prowess than for his frequent cable TV appearances on MSNBC and his rather non-businesslike tweets that began long before he won (examples: “I like pizza but it doesn’t like me” and “Let’s not forget Israel is our B.F.F. in a hostile area”).

Mr. Farenthold said that he goes on MSNBC because he is asked to and because it is more like “missionary work” than going on Fox News, and that his use of social media is part of who he is. “Twitter scares the daylights out of my office staff,” he said. “But social media is not just another avenue to put out your press releases. It’s got to have a little edge.”

Should redistricting maps hold up, Mr. Farenthold’s district would be much more Republican than it is now, and more attractive to candidates of his own party. “It is widely anticipated that he will have a primary challenger,” said Chris Elam, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas.

State Representatives Todd Hunter and Raul Torres, both well known in the Corpus Christi area, are considered potential primary challenges. Mr. Hunter said in an e-mail that he had “no other plans as of today,” and Mr. Torres said he needed to think about it some. “I have had several people who have asked me to do it,” he said. “Being able to serve in that capacity would be a great honor.”

All due respect, Mr. Farenthold! “I personally like Blake,” Mr. Torres said. “I am probably more conservative than him. That’s just my opinion.”

Other potential challengers insist it is nothing personal.

Running for Congress “is something I have always wanted to do,” said Bill Ketron, a Tennessee state senator who said he might challenge Representative Scott DesJarlais, another freshman Republican. “I feel like I made a difference as a county commissioner, I think I’m making a difference in the State Senate, and it would be the same idea with Congress. It’s got nothing to do with Scott DesJarlais.”

Mr. Luidhardt, the consultant, sees an upside to the challengers. “Without a primary challenger, a candidate can get a little lethargic,” he said.

But for now, most candidates are not feeling the hot breath of potential rivals on their necks. “Right now, we’re worried about the deficit, cutting spending and getting our financial house in order,” said Chip Saltsman, the chief of staff for Mr. Fleischmann, the freshman from Tennessee. “We’re not thinking about politics.”

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