Joe Wilson: Campaign Enemy #1?
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), the congressman who yelled "You lie!" at President Obama last night, has suddenly found himself in a tough reelection race: Rob Miller, the former Marine who lost 54-46 to Wilson in 2008 (a relatively good showing), had raised $100,000 within eight hours of Wilson's outburst.
Now, that number is up to $200,000, according to a source at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and, while Miller was by far the poorer candidate up until last night, he's now probably richer.
(At the end of July, the latest fundraising numbers available from the Federal Election Commission, Wilson had $211,604 in his war chest. Miller, who had raised a total of $50,000 so far this year, is probably now sitting on at least that much. His $200k haul now makes up 35 percent of the total money raised in the race, going off the July FEC reports; it's about two thirds the $310,000 Wilson has raised in total.)
It would be tempting to assume that Wilson is now public enemy #1 for the DCCC. You can just imagine Rahm Emanuel calling Chris Van Hollen, his successor as DCCC chairman, and saying, simply, "Wilson's gotta go." But it's not that simple: Wilson represents a conservative, mostly white collar district in Columbia, one that gave President Bush 60 percent of its vote in 2004. He's not the easiest member to go after; Wilson himself won with 63 percent in 2006, amid the Democratic wave.
A DCCC spokesman said Wilson was a DCCC target before last night, given Miller's relatively strong showing in 2008. Wilson wasn't, however, on the DCCC's official target list of vulnerable Republicans.
With most analysts projecting that Democrats will drop a few seats in the House this cycle as part of the natural ebb and flow of congressional majorities--putting aside whatever impact the economy, the health care debate, and the success or failure of Obama's other initiatives may have--it's not a cycle in which Democrats can afford getting into races just for the heck of it. They're challenging National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (TX), which could be a statement race, but they insist they're doing it because they see him as truly vulnerable.
The DCCC will be watching the Wilson/Miller race to see how things develop. Comparisons are being made to El Tinklenberg, the Democrat who gave Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) a run for her money in '08 after she suggested Obama was un-American. The money came in fast for Tinklenberg after Bachmann's comment, too.
"All eyes, obviously, right now are on the fallout from Joe Wilson," a DCCC official said.
"We have a very strong candidate who surprised a lot of people [in 2008]," the official said. "This is a race that was not necessarily on a lot of people's radars."
Now, with the cash coming in for Miller, South Carolina's second has blipped onto some screens.