September 15th, 2009
05:30 AM ET
9 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. jaye

    BRING IT ON..... they sound like a bunch of school yard bullies...LOL
    The republicans are a shame and an embarassment to our country.

    September 15, 2009 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  2. Olive

    Joe Wilson, like Sarah Palin, and all other Rethuglicans believe they are above up-holding the standards they are to adhere to and be held accountable for after taking the OATH of office.

    September 15, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  3. Mark,B'ham,Al.

    This is Politics as ususal in our Kangaroo Congress! At least Rep. Wilson's outburst got the President to support verification, now watch and see if the liberal elitist drop it in the final compromise? I would not bet anything on the verification of legallity or citizenship staying in a final bill!

    September 15, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  4. James

    Oh, this is great!
    The best part is that he was right.

    Finally, someone dare question the imperial party, and they fall right into the trap.

    September 15, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  5. Randolph Carter, rammin' reform down the throat of the sleeping giant

    "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...."

    How telling. I guess the conservative strategy, then, is to not talk about healthcare and not to move forward. Let's just live in our little 1950's fantasy world and ignore the 21st century. Lovely. Have a nice day!

    September 15, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |

    Hmm. These are the descendants of the idiots who thought secession from the Union was going to work out. Yeah. Okay. It will be brought to you. Then what are you going to do? Secede?

    September 15, 2009 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  7. Laurie

    Censure him. I am sick of the "real Americans" acting like a bunch of crazed hooligans everytime they have an audience. His outburst was not spontaneous. It was purposeful. It was uncalled for. It was shameful. It was uncivilized. Since when do the American people, the President, and members of Congress who are not "real Americans" have to be exposed these antics. I am fed up. CENSURE HIM!

    September 15, 2009 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  8. Robin

    Wilson is disrespectful and should run for Governor so he stay in South Carolina. My daughters were upset about the outburst and he owes the American public and not his racist constituents an apology. It's about principle. People upset about Serena and Kyane, however, Americans should be upset about the President being disrespect and there should be consequences to his actions, especially since he cannot apology to the House.

    September 15, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  9. LW In Texas

    This man needs to grow up and become a man, He is a leader in our country, he shoot of his big mouth it was in the wrong vinue, and he needs to step up, stop talking and take his lumps, Wrong way Wilson

    September 15, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  10. Tony

    Wilson is not sorry for what he did. He knew exactly what he was doing and would not have done it to a white male president.

    September 15, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  11. steve

    GOP, What a bunch of high school bully.
    Your party has for the past 4 months spent time on smearing and running a witch hunt on ACORN but it is a waste of time to reprimand your new HERO Rep Joe "You Lie" Wilson (R) SC.
    Dem should not blink after all 70% of American believed he was wrong.

    September 15, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  12. Hank in Seattle

    Why bother to censure him – just use the video footage in the campaign ads. If you oppose his boorish behavior, support his opponent. The accountability moment for Representatives comes every two years.

    September 15, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  13. Barbara - Atlanta GA

    Some republicans true colors are showing. Will there ever be a time that they will except responsibility and for a change make themselves look like they are descent people and not the evil people they portray?

    September 15, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  14. cjr

    wilson needs to be spanked – but then he would really get off on that!
    the entire SC delegation should be punished also – they are a bunch of jerks and if this is the best that SC has to offer – time for them to join TX and leave the union. I

    September 15, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  15. Dan in NY

    I'm a Democrat, but I do not think sanctioning Rep. Wilson is the right thing to do. It only furthers distracts both sides from the true focus of this debate. Both sides should be working on a compromise, not on sanctioning bad behavior.

    September 15, 2009 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  16. disgusted

    Better for the conservative point of view? The one that says 'even though it is there in black and white I still say it is a lie' or the one that says we don't care if you if die on the emergency floor if you cannot prove you are a citizen? Or maybe it is the one that says we don't have to follow the rules of decorum if there is any profit to be made.

    September 15, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  17. Fred the Moderate

    This is the type of congress you nut jobs want? Anyone can yell anything at the President of the United States during an address of the joint sissions of congress?

    You people are undoubtedly the must rude, rediculas and hateful people in the United States.

    But now you are becoming violent which believe me we have taken note. We too, will be well armed and I never thought I would say that living in the United States of America

    September 15, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  18. Dave

    Time for another donation for Joe! The Dems don't understand how bad 2010 is going to be for them.

    September 15, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  19. disgusted in dc

    The trailer park mentality has arrived in Congress. Those who support Mr. Wilson should be very proud that he sets such a good example – the 13th chromosone is hard at work in a region with such a shallow gene pool.

    September 15, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  20. muldoon

    Wilson already secured the vote of his R.W. base when he spouted off at the Presedent. I doubt, though, that it garnered him many new votes among the old line Conservatives, who are already finding their party's know-nothing torch and pitchfork antics a bit of an embarrassment.

    The Dems have no choice but to censure Wilson. While there is something to be said for not interrupting your oponent while he is cutting his own throat, in this particular instance for the Democratic leadership to ignore his baseless outburst is to imply both consent and agreement..

    September 15, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  21. Diana NJ

    South Carolina has unique way of gaining attention.. One can run around on your wife on tax payer money and feel deserving... another can show disrespect for the House of Rep and
    Senate and President and then use it as a fund raiser.. Odd state, vey odd state..

    September 15, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  22. A. Goodwin

    Wilson was wrong, plain and simple. And, frankly, those individuals who booed Bush were wrong as well (although he deserved to be booed!). Where is the respect for our president? Republican's would have called any outburst back then treasonous – probably would have wiretapped us. Now, we have a honest president who is doing the best job he humanly do – and yet he deserved this blatent outburst? NO!

    Republican's: your days are numbered. Get used to dissapointment.

    September 15, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  23. langx

    Republicans have a history of supporting stupidity.

    They voted for Bush twice.

    September 15, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  24. Fed Up

    While they are at it, the Republicans need to censure all the Democrats that booed Bush over the years. How about it? Tit for tat! Beginning with Billary Clinton.

    September 15, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  25. chill

    Wilson's actions were childish at best, but the best way to to "censure" the man is to pass health care reform. Stop it with the game playing and move on to something important. What did you expect from the GOP right wing anyway?

    September 15, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
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