Republicans maintained a strong majority in the House, losing only eight seats total and hanging on to most of their 2010 additions—including the mortician and company—who will now play wizened sophomore mentors to a new class of freshmen. One of the most striking aspects of the 113th Congress is its inexperience: a full 38 percent of House members have served for fewer than three years. That’s the largest percentage of rookies since the Gingrich Revolution of 1994—which, of course, resulted in a catastrophic government shutdown.
When Yoho defeated Stearns in the Republican primary for the third district, a recently redrawn, deep-red slice of northern Florida, it was not for a lack of conservatism on Stearns’s part; the then-incumbent led investigations into Solyndra and Planned Parenthood and packed endorsements from the National Rifle Association, Representatives Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann, and everyone else on the conservative checklist. But Yoho successfully argued that Stearns had overstayed his welcome, bona fides be damned.
“Career politicians created this mess, or at least they didn’t do anything to prevent it,” Yoho likes to say, when he is not calling for the abolishment of the Department of Energy or the full repeal of Obamacare. The day before his rendezvous with Little Man, Yoho repeated this refrain during a roundtable with workers at a lumber mill; in a speech to retired federal employees; over glazed ham at the Newberry Lions Club; and finally at a barbecue hosted by the local Republican Party at a historic train depot. It’s also the message of the first and only television ad his campaign ran, which showed three men in suits on their hands and knees in a pigsty. The “career politicians” tussled with each other and ate from a trough while Yoho said, in voice-over, “All they do is throw mud at each other.”
As we hurtled down a two-lane highway en route to the lumber mill, Yoho told me he was not worried about offending his future colleagues. “Intimidating is going up to a growling Rottweiler and having to squeeze his anal glands, or going up to a stallion that weighs 1,200 pounds and telling him you’re going to take his testicles off,” he said from behind the wheel of his Ford Excursion. “That’s intimidating. I think I can handle Congress.”
Yoho sells himself as a regular working guy: someone who met his wife in fourth grade, got married as a teenager, bought a trailer home, and started his own veterinary business. When he announced his candidacy last February, he had just 6 percent name recognition. Though he’d upped that to 66 percent by the time I visited, he was far from a household name.
“I don’t know how you expect to win with a name like Yoho,” said Lee Childers, a sales manager at the lumber mill. “I had to look you up to make sure you weren’t a Jap.” Yoho laughed. He told me later that he’d added his photo to campaign bumper stickers to clear up any confusion about his ethnicity.