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

Wilson supporters to House Democrats: Bring it on

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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 B

    Yay Joe Wilson! Let's hear it for bad behavior! Let's hear it for breaking rules! Let's turn this country into an anarchist state! Law and order was so 1990s.

    September 15, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  2. Obama 2.0

    He needs reprimand. Only because the Congress needs to set a standard of conduct, regardless of party.

    September 15, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  3. Tom B

    Joe Wilson apologized to the president for his actions. He has not apologized to his fellow congressmen for breaking the rules. While an additional apology to Obama may not be needed, an apology for bringing additional shame to the Halls of Congress is a good idea.

    September 15, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  4. Dave

    So let's hold hearings on Rep. Wilson for shouting out "You Lie" during President Obama's speech (which was wrong and he should be reprimanded), and then let's do NOTHING about Rep. Rangel who is Chariman of the Ways & Means Committee and has cheated the tax system for years & years, "forgot" he had $600K in a money market account, "forgot" about all those investments, "forgot" about all that rental income, and is not being invetigated by the House???.

    Way to go House Leadership in showing America where your priorities are

    September 15, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  5. Jeb

    See, this is what I'm talking about. Every other person of noteriety that does something wrong is NEVER forgiven in this country, but this nimwit can violate House Rules and plain respect for the office of the Presidency and people are actually defending him against being subject to the same rules the rest of Congress is subject to.

    It's like them trying to impeach Clinton for doing a lot less worse than what their leaders are doing now and refusing to step down. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    September 15, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  6. WhoCares?

    It's SC.. This rude, disrespectful person is a role model for SC.

    Look at who they elect. These people should have the right to even make any decisions taken from them.


    September 15, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  7. jane

    Joe Wilson, Serena Williams, Kanye - their problem is not merely one of simple rudeness or a temporary lack of civility; it's a fundamental lack of class.

    September 15, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  8. JA/TN

    we talk a manners, gun toting town screaming hall meetings, Kanye West, not mention the Joe Wilson outburst, Americans are more barbaric than ever, the supposedly learned people, what will the children do

    September 15, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  9. GrrlCanada

    I certainly hope he doesn't expect to be called a southern gentleman. There is nothing couteous and genteel in looking like a obstinate jerk

    September 15, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  10. Vivian McRae

    The fact that he won't apologize, like any other normal human being, really says it all, if Joe Wilson wants to check somebody for lying , he should start with the Govenor of his own state. Thanks for showing us all who you really are , I hope your fellow members will also reveal themselves. as well That is all.

    September 15, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
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