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. Rob Johnson

    I'm no fan of Wilson or the GOP, but they do have a point.

    Obama got plenty of mileage out of Wilson already. The worst thing the Democrats could do is drag this out and make him a martyr.

    Sometimes you need to quit while you are ahead.

    September 15, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  2. Susan

    I would rather be a Liberal any day than a so called Conservative Radical......that is what Wilson is and all those in these stupid TEA BAG EXPRESS that is marching on Washington, all these supporters of Palin, all the supporters of the Extreme Far Right Wing Religious.....these are the people that are dangerous, NOT LIBERAL DEMOCRATS not President Obama and his supporters........RADICALS the GOP

    September 15, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  3. JDM

    Thank you Joe Wilson for some good ole South Carolina Rebell Yells.
    The south normally is the tipping point for many great changes in our country. Lyching, voter suppresion, you name it started down theret.

    September 15, 2009 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  4. Steve A. , New Braunfels , Texas

    Yall republicans are realy something!"Bring it on" I believe thats what the republican messia, GEORGE W BUSH, said as he launched his personal war into the middle east 8 years ago.You cry baby republicans will be about as succesful as he was, 8 years from now,maybe longer.We will see.

    September 15, 2009 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  5. J.P.

    Please do. Please bring it forward. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.

    Democrats are the gift that keep on giving.

    2010 is shaping up to be a political tsumani that will make 1994 look like a gentle evening breeze.

    September 15, 2009 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  6. Change_Has_Begun

    Yes! let's go through with this and let this Wilson fool know how he has to behave. Whether this is passed or not the right wing nut-jobs will always be on Wilson's side. So this is an opportunity to show this Wilson and the Republicans that disrespect to the President will cost you dearly. And who cares about a handful of conservatives against this resolution and might I add that there are only a handful of conservatives left in this country. GO LIBERALISM!!!

    September 15, 2009 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  7. Beth

    We'll be happy to bring it on. Do you actually think you are stronger than we (Democrats) are? What a laugh that is!!!!

    September 15, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  8. joey

    HURAH JUSY VANTASTIC U BE THE MAN. FINALLY someone told the president the truth.A man with a backbone.Ididnt think that was possible in our goverment anymore. u restored my faith in the american goverment again . NOW JUST FOLLOW THRU

    September 15, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  9. Change_Has_Begun

    Look at this Wilson fool he looks like your typical southern racist white man who just cannot digest that a black man is President. Hahaha...whether you like it or not Obama is your President and will be again in 2012. Love it when the conservatives are upset. Wish we could put all of them in a boat and let it sail away...no no let it sink...hahaha

    September 15, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  10. Melissa

    This is not about an apology. Not doing anything sets a bad precedent where this kind of despicable behavior is allowed. Just because it was allowed 100 years ago, doesn't mean it should be allowed now. No Democrats ever did this while Bush was in office, and booing is NOT the same as calling the President a liar during his Congressional Address.

    You people will just need to learn to deal with it.

    September 15, 2009 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  11. Dex Houston TX

    Rich Bolen (R) says "It means the Democrats aren't talking about health care and moving the ball forward."

    Bolen haven't you learned anything from President Obama. The current adminstration is more than capable of handling more than one thing at a time. The Democratic Party can kick Joe Wilson's butt while moving healthcare forward, it's call intelligence, something lacking from you Confederate Republicans!
    Confedreate Republicans live by one rule only: FEAR, BIGOTRY, IGNORANCE & SMEAR....their days are numbered!

    Obama/Biden
    2008/2012

    September 15, 2009 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  12. AstroTurf This

    It's nice to see our congress busy, hard at work making sure our tax dollars are spent on their 7th grade antics. The Democrats have no argument to win with healthcare so they are reduced to calling people racist and boo-hooing. I don't recall Harry Reid apologizing to George Bush for calling him a liar. I don't recall Harry Reid apologizing to the US troops for telling them they lost the war. The Democrats are determined to do nothing but cause a stink whether they are in the majority or not...they are like a bunch of 7th graders who can't be controlled. We need to get their teacher, Nancy Pelosi, and put them in dentention.

    September 15, 2009 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  13. Island girl

    Let it all hang out! The more bloops and blunders party affiliates make, the better it is for the other side.

    September 15, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  14. Brian

    Another tired, worn out and buffoonish GOP bromide, highlighting the degree to which they have been marginalized. When these folks understand that they must reach out to those beyond their shrinking base, then they may have a chance again in national politics.

    September 15, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  15. Randy, San Francisco

    Wilson supporters just don't get it. Continuing defiance and support for the boorish behavior will come at a heavy price. The GOP is already the party of NO and will soon to be regarded as the party of extremists and bullies. Energize the minority base and lose the majority of Americans made up of moderates and independents.

    September 15, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  16. AustHall

    Joe Wilson acted inappropriately in the House and should be reprimanded for that action. If his apology was truly sincere, then he would graciously accept the reprimand.

    The Republican Party really comes across as a bunch of loud, rude, and narrow-minded jerks

    September 15, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  17. Dismayed by the Republican Party

    This is setting a horrible precedent. If this guy benefits from his outburst, that sets the stage for any joker who wants a little publicity. So much for our last shred of civility. This should not be a partisan issue.

    September 15, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  18. Karen

    I am a resident of South Carolina and it is very disheartening to see that their is no boundaries on respect. Why is this so acceptable in 2009. How can I teach my children to look beyond the color of anyones skin if no once will look beyond theirs. How does the rest of America think African Americans are treated in SC if the representative can act this way towards the President and not be held accountable. This is about race plain and simple. When will people be called on their wicked ways? When will they be held accountable? It is very very sad and no level of apologies will replace the hate in his heart. If he is going to be so bold with his disrespect then be a man and stand by your negative, wicked, racial beliefs.

    September 15, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  19. Larry

    The GOP has become a CIRCUS

    And Wilson is simply the CLOWN currently in the center ring

    A bunch of freeloaders riding on the taxpayers dollars

    Absolutely disgusting

    The Part Of NO ... morals

    September 15, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  20. vmarsha

    "Rally party activist". The Republican party is the most disrespectful, arrogant bunch of disgraces to this country. Sit down and shut up. All of you are making us look like a country of uninformed, uneducated racist who can't except the fact Barack Obama is president.

    September 15, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  21. Pat Dunedin Fl

    Sir you are a disgrace to America, small children and eager
    adults need roll models, you are taught not to interupt and
    be polite, you are a true disgrace in the peoples house.
    You should be removed from all committees and your vote
    be voided. In my house you would stand in the corner very night
    for a week!

    September 15, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  22. luisradames@hotmail.com

    After 8 years of the nightmare we endured with the republicans in power the; biggest pack of liars this country has ever seen and never did one Democrat disrespected their moronic president with an IQ of 81 and was an embarrassment every time he open his mouth not to mention Gonzalez, Rumsfeld, Rice and Cheney to mention a few criminals under his administration that lied to our people for 8 years.

    September 15, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  23. lets do it!!!

    screw it all! lets just have a civil war, survival of the fittest, why not i'm sick of all these weak all talk and no action politics plus it will give the American people something to do besides complain and whine, but of course this would never happen because americans are to lazy and can't fend for themselves anymore becasue their to house broken and prude!!

    September 15, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  24. Bug3t

    Wow, South Carolina... think this guy takes you for granted? Sure sounds like it.

    September 15, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  25. Robin in Tampa, FL

    I think they should have censured this guy the very next day, but they let it drag out for nearly a week. Now this clown is being seen as a hero by a growing number of people on the right. Disgusting.

    September 15, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
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