September 15th, 2009
05:30 AM ET
5 years ago

Wilson supporters to House Democrats: Bring it on

Wilson used a Web video last week to raise money after being criticized by Democrats.
Wilson used a Web video last week to raise money after being criticized by Democrats.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – As House Democrats march forward with plans to formally reprimand Republican Joe Wilson for calling President Obama a liar during last week's joint address to Congress, Wilson's supporters back home in South Carolina have a straightforward response: Bring it on.

"I hope they do it," said Rich Bolen, who chairs the Republican Party in Lexington County, where Wilson lives. "The longer this story stays alive, the better it is for the conservative point of view. It means the Democrats aren't talking about health care and moving the ball forward. They're giving Wilson a ton of traction."

After Wilson rejected calls from Democrats to apologize on the floor of the House for his outburst, House leadership moved ahead with plans to vote Tuesday on a "resolution of disapproval" against the congressman.

But Wilson's supporters in South Carolina are hardly running from the resolution - they're embracing it.

GOP campaign operatives in the state argue that the vote will give Wilson yet another chance to raise money and rally party activists ahead of next year's election in the conservative-leaning 2nd Congressional District, which hasn't voted for a Democrat in 46 years.

Other politicians in the state are already sensing a chance to appeal to the Republican base by coming to Wilson's defense. South Carolina Rep. Gresham Barrett, who is running for governor next year and faces a crowded Republican primary, sent a letter to President Obama late Monday asking him to prevent House Democrats from taking action on Wilson.

"If the national Democrats want to make Joe Wilson a focal point, I can't imagine them doing a bigger favor for Joe Wilson," noted Richard Quinn, Wilson's Columbia-based political consultant. Quinn said if Tuesday's vote is successful, it will turn Wilson into "a martyr."

Both Wilson and his Democratic challenger Rob Miller have raised more than $1 million since the normally reserved congressman shouted "You lie!" at the president last Wednesday - a cash bonanza that will have both candidates on the airwaves and in mailboxes late into next year's campaign.

But several South Carolina Republicans said Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic allies in Congress are keeping the issue alive at their own expense, and at the expense of Miller, who isn't likely to embrace the polarizing House Speaker next year while running for Congress in a Republican-leaning district.

According to an Associated Press poll released last week, approval of Congress remains abysmally low. Just 28 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job, while 69 percent disapprove.

"If one of the most unpopular politicians in Washington and her record low approval-rating colleagues want to come out against Joe Wilson, Joe ought to smile warmly and say, 'Yes ma'am,'" said Robert Cahaly, an Atlanta-based GOP strategist who works frequently in South Carolina.

Katon Dawson, the former chairman of the South Carolina Republican party, said Democrats will "secure Wilson's seat for the next two years" if they approve Tuesday's resolution. He said Wilson should welcome the resolution as an opportunity to nationalize the race by running against the "arrogant" Democratic leadership in Congress and forcing Miller to take positions on unpopular national issues.

"I think it would be a tremendous asset to Joe Wilson's re-elect for the Congress to try to censure him or do something to him," Dawson said. "I find it hilarious that they're spending so much time on him."

Top Democrats in the state, however, warned Republicans against being so self-assured, especially since Wilson's outburst turned his little-known Democratic rival into a well-funded challenger in a matter of days.

Miller has raised more than $1.5 million dollars in just five days, a substantial improvement from his last campaign. In 2008, Miller raised roughly $400,000 and gave himself another $235,000, but still managed to come within eight points of Wilson.

Dick Harpootlian, the former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said "the crazy folks, the right wing folks" are already in Wilson's camp, House resolution or not. He said Wilson needs to worry about independent voters instead.

"It's another crazy piece of conduct from a Republican in this state," he said. "I think the independent voter out there is saying, 'What the hell? Why is this guy screaming at the President of the United States?'"

Still, Harpootlian said House Democrats need to be cautious during Tuesday's vote. Any effort to punish Wilson, he said, must be done "in a somber, respectful way, instead of a gleeful crucifixion."

Scott Huffmon, a political scientist at Winthrop University, doubted that the resolution would have any sweeping impact on the 2010 race beyond rallying the party faithful. If House Democrats succeed in passing the resolution against Wilson, he said, the Republican would "wear that among his supporters as a badge of honor."

"If there’s any kind of censure vote, he will print that in his fundraising letters, mark my word," Huffmon said.


Filed under: Joe Wilson • Rob Miller • South Carolina
soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. Tom in Delaware

    Those Liberal simpletons have made a Hero out of an otherwise ordinary guy...thank you.

    Now that the 'Lion of the Senate' is gone the Republicans can have the 'Lion of the House'.

    September 15, 2009 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  2. john young

    stop the talking and pass a healthcare bill.

    September 15, 2009 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  3. Tom in Delaware

    Joe Wilson has declined Barack Obama's generous offer to join him on the next Apology Tour, instead relinquishing his seat to Serena Williams or Nancy Pelosi.

    September 15, 2009 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  4. Zion

    Cool. So that way both sides get what they want. Democrats censure him, and the Republicans in his district will vote for him. Great. That's bipartisanship I can believe in.

    September 15, 2009 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  5. williefloyd

    Mr. Bolen. the only thing Mr. Wilson accomplished was to change Independents like myself to Democrats. Maybe you should recall that Wilson only won by a mere 6 pts. in the last election. Also, compare the difference in contributions received by Mr. Miller. I've already committed to be a volunteer for him-a very active volunteer!!!

    September 15, 2009 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  6. Willy Brown

    Democrats need to stop and reflect when they called Bush a liar and was never called out on it by the boot licking media the past eight years. Don't want to be a Hypocrite now do we?

    September 15, 2009 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  7. KirksNoseHair

    What a moron. He disrespects the office of the President of The United States on live TV, in front of millions of Americans, and the world, even, and he won't apologize on the floor of the Senate and is going to leverage his arrogance and ignorance to raise money.

    And people wonder why Republicans trigger my gag reflex.

    September 15, 2009 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  8. Ted

    He'has apologized to the President. That is enough! Why waste time on this when we have soooo many other issues that need to be address. I'm a Democrat but enough is enough.

    I'm sick and tired of both sides pointing fingers at each other while mainstream Americans continues to be ignored.

    September 15, 2009 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  9. fereddie

    Once is enough Joe, keep up the good work. We will support you in 2010

    September 15, 2009 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  10. some guy in New Hampshire

    What drives me crazy in all this Wilson stupidness is that he accused Obama of lying about his health care plan when Obama had not yet introduced his own health care plan. Wilson was objecting to what he thought were provisions in a plan introduced by House Democrats, not introduced or endorsed by Obama. If you're going to accuse someone of lying, you first need to be sure you know what you're talking about. And now Wilson has legions of people who seem to celebrate and endorse his confusion. Sheesh, people.

    September 15, 2009 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  11. GGG

    Give me a break!!!! Mr. Wilson... Thankyou for having the guts to say the truth!!!!... What about Pelosi, Obama... Reid... Have them apologize to our Country, They are Liars!!!!!

    September 15, 2009 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  12. Pragmatic

    Poster boy for republicans behaving badly: You don't yell "you lie" at the son giving an eulogy for his father: You don't yell at the preacher in the middle of a sermon. Civility and decorum. Wilson needs to learn these lessons.

    SC republicans? What a hoot! Just look at their other elected officials!

    September 15, 2009 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  13. A sad day!

    This ia truly a sad day for this nation. People are glorifying this man that disrespected the President of the United States. My students in the sixth grade think this a a disgrace. I am ashamed again to be from the south. I cannot imagine anyone giving to this man's cause. He is not a hero. He is rallying a base of supporters that have children, grandchildren, what are you teaching them? I am praying for this nation. it is a disgrace what I am seeing in this matter. SHAMEFUL!!!!

    September 15, 2009 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  14. Lena

    Scare tactics as usual. If it was anyone else yelling out to our president , the media would not have addressed it but 1-2 days. Get over yourselfs. -NEXT!!!

    September 15, 2009 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  15. Sue

    I don't care if he is republican or democrat. He violated the rules of congress, he embarassed everyone and he should formallly apologize in congress or pay the consequences. And in my opinion this should not be a vote down party line. Everyone in congress should expece decent behavior from everyone. If there are no consequences then it continues.
    Congress should grow up!

    September 15, 2009 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  16. AEK

    I can't decide which is more childish, Mr. Wilson's "accidental" comment or the Republican reaction to it. Neither surprises me!

    September 15, 2009 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  17. Rus

    Surely the more striking aspect of this story is the huge windfall for Miller, Wilson's opponent. Why would that happen if shouting at the president was so popular?

    September 15, 2009 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  18. diana

    This man nor his party have any class. Not only should he be but all tex ting and twitters Dem and GOP should be embarrassed

    September 15, 2009 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  19. Tina

    Democrats need to move on and leave Joe Wilson alone. There are more important things democrats should be focusing on rather than trying to humiliate Joe Wilson by demanding another apology. He has already apologized. One apology is enough. I hope Joe Wilson's constituents keep sending him money so he can defeat Rob Miller.

    Good luck Joe. Stand strong and don't give in to the democrats.

    September 15, 2009 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  20. TangledThorns

    Go Joe Wilson!! We need more people like him to call out Obama on his lies to America.

    September 15, 2009 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  21. kim

    Dems wont be distracted by reprimanding Wilson, you see Dems already know what they want and they already know that further discussions arent going to change repups minds or further the process. The bottom line is that Dems are gonna have do, what we elected Obama to do, and thats healthcare reform with a public option. Its not hard to walk and chew gum at the same time. I mean we can slap Wilson upside the head and still do what we came to do.

    September 15, 2009 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  22. Holly B

    While Wilson's actions were hugely inappropriate – both parties need just get over it and to focus on the health care bill

    September 15, 2009 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  23. ME

    He did apologize... and what about Harry Reid calling Bush a loser?? I did not hear the outrage from the democrats then, did you? This is just a ploy from the Democrats to shift attention from the health care debate.
    Initially, Pelosi thought it was over but then the democratic leadership reminded her that it is better to shift attention back to Joe. What a clear political stunt!

    September 15, 2009 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  24. victim of republican greed

    In a recent poll, 21% thought Joe Wilson was right, but in the same poll, 67% felt he was wrong. Joe should grow up and apologize to congress for his behavior. He embarassed his colleagues, and that is unexcusable. I am not sure how his stupidity helps the GOP, but I am sure they will find a way.

    September 15, 2009 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  25. Paul

    What another Republican loser...why don't we stick to the issues here instead of wasting more taxpayer money?

    September 15, 2009 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
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