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. jwtrexler

    Proof that the right cares nothing about the people. I almost feel sorry for their poor ignorant supporters.

    September 15, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  2. John, Brooklyn, NY

    Its sad that Joe Wilson – not to mention his braintrust back in South Carolina – continue to believe that this has been some type of fraternity prank that they've played instead of disrespecting the office of the President of the United States.

    Silly partisan politics may rally a rabble base...but it does nothing to restore the honor of South Carolina or South Carolinians.

    Where have all the genuine statesmen (and women) of the South disappeared to?

    September 15, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  3. Sam Sixpack

    All this does is underscore the truth – the president IS a liar. Obahahahahahaha.

    September 15, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  4. Sniffit

    SC is the leading repository for stupid in this country. The Dems should graciously let it go: it's not a fair fight and they shouldn't be beating up on those who can't really bring the game.

    September 15, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  5. Big Ed

    What a low class moron! His behavior after his so-called apology shows what this creep is made of. What has he proposed to help this country? Nothing. His claim to fame is disrespecting the President of the United States. My children behave better than this fool! The GOP should hang their heads in shame for supporting the boorish behavior of a no class idiot like him. Whether or not he agrees with President Obama is secondary. His behavior in inexcusable. Good way to set an example for the kiddies, eh Joe?

    September 15, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  6. Ray

    What is wrong with these GOP people? Are they really this stupid? This is ridiculously petty.

    Wilson did wrong, he may have apologized to the President, but he hasn't apologized to Congress or to the American people who he also insulted with his outburst.

    The GOP are wanting Congress to NOT deal with the issues at hand like health reform and the economy. This is why the GOP is a waste of breath and should be removed from politics altogether. They have no love for this country and no interest in getting this country back on track after 8 years of utter incompetence put us in the hole we're in.

    September 15, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  7. ggb

    political hypocracy at its best....the dems never apologize but the repubs have to over and over and over......The only dem to apologize is Obama to the world and that was not his right.

    September 15, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  8. Don't blame me-I voted for the american

    It also highlites the divisiveness and pettiness, and, dare I say it, hypocrisy that is endemic on the left. This is the best advertising Wilson could have received. And when he runs counter-ads, showing how Moveon and liberals from NY and Cali are trying to tell SC voters how to vote, well, that is manna from heaven to a political consultant.

    September 15, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  9. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Joe Wilson pulled a stunt and i don't believe his apology was sincere at all. He'll find out next November the consequences of his actions.

    September 15, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  10. ender

    Fear, hate, and uncivility.

    The last bastion of the paranoid and uneducated.

    September 15, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  11. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Every day the news show that Republicans are a bunch of jerks and hate-mongers.

    Wilson was WRONG and deserves the be reprimanded.

    September 15, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  12. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Listen to The One, Congress: beating up on this redneck is a "distraction" from your usual lecturing us on medicine and the economy, things about which most of you have little knowledge.

    September 15, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  13. Obummer - One and Done

    Tell it like it is Joe !

    September 15, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  14. Anonymous

    In a recent poll, 21% support Joe "the liar" Wilson. I cannot imagine his behavior is going to draw independents to his party.

    September 15, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  15. Ron

    The prez lied and he was called out on it. End of story. I believe it is a mistake for the Dems to keep this story in the sportlight, it only accentuates what so many people believe about our Presidnet and Congressional leadership. Certainly there are more important things for Congress to be focused upon.

    September 15, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  16. jay

    Why must republicans behave like children. please apologize to everybody you offened Rep. Wilson
    That means your fellow congressman or lady as well. Please everybody stop and listen before you critize or how will you know what your being critical of. Because if you don't then your just prejuding which we all know it as being bias.

    September 15, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  17. Sam Sixpack

    30 point toss-up: Does anybody know why these same politicians voted to pull the plug on your good friends at ACORN?

    September 15, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  18. Kevin

    Joe Wilson embarrassed the House of Representative, all parties. He needs to apologize for his childish behavior. He should then do the right thing and resign.

    September 15, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  19. Angela in Denver

    This shows the Republicans are all about money. Anything for money suits them just fine. I pray that the Silent Majority speaks very loud in 2010 & 2012.

    September 15, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  20. victim of republican greed

    If Boehner was a true leader, he would support any resolution that would reprimand Wilson's attack on the rules of the congress. True leaders are expected to do what is right, not what the fringe of his party wants.

    September 15, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  21. Tabeth

    Is this the way authoroties in this country should behave?
    Is America a characterless country?

    September 15, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  22. Fed Up From SC

    I'm a former life long Republican from SC. If I weren't already 'former', I would be so today after reading this. There is no way that the GOP can justify what Joe Wilson did as acceptable. There is no way the religious right can justify the GOP's actions as moral without discrediting themselves.

    September 15, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  23. Pat

    He who is without sin, let them cast the first stone...in otherwords despite what Rep Wilson did (which was wrong), there were many Democrats that were very disrepectful of President Bush and called him a liar and worse. I don't like President Obama, but he deserves respect for the office he holds. No shoe throwing, no calling names. But respect goes both ways. Lets move on and tackle issues instead of being children.

    September 15, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  24. Typical Democrat

    Republicans need to respect the presidents lies and misrepresentations. It was ok for the Democrats to shout out Bush when he spoke, cause he's a Republican. Democrats rule the country and it is up to them how they spend our money and the Republicans are to do as the Democrats want, since we won!

    September 15, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  25. Dave C - NJ

    The GOP goons are correct on this one. Let this guy fade!

    September 15, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
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