On Tuesday night, surprising no one but Rep. Steve Stockman, Rep. Steve Stockman got completely obliterated in the state's Republican senate primary. Which means that by the time January 2015 rolls around, the House will be without two of its most colorful characters: Stockman and Minnesota's Michele Bachmann. Speaker John Boehner's gain is the quote-loving world's massive loss.
We'd been watching the Stockman race closely for two reasons. First, it initially seemed as though it might be one of the new breed of Tea Party-versus-establishment battles that are all the rage in the Republican Party these days. But, second, it quickly became apparent that Stockman was running one of the weirdest, most obviously unsuccessful campaigns in the history of campaigns. Meaning quite literally: some pre-Christian-era Athenian candidate probably had a more sophisticated strategy than Stockman appeared to.
A very, very brief review: Stockman disappeared for a bit and accused reporters of lying and sued his opponent and threatened to jail people that posted his mugshot online and made bad Photoshop images and more. There is actually more; I am just tired of listing them.
At the same time, he didn't campaign. Like, at all. It appears that his last campaign event was in January. Tim Murphy at Mother Jones, who's been tracking/shaking-his-head-in-confusion-at Stockman for a long time now, calls Stockman's strategy an "uncampaign" — bank on name recognition and a one-on-one run-off election to win election. That's how he won election to the House twice (about two decades apart). It was not enough to survive the increased scrutiny of running a race at the level of the U.S. Senate.
Since he isn't running for reelection in his House seat, it means that Stockman may be one of the few members of Congress — if not the only one? It's not easy to tell — to serve two one-term bids with an extended break in between. What will Stockman do next? Perhaps go back to work for Presidential Trust Marketing, the nebulous organization that Stockman listed as his source of income prior to winning election in 2012 and which only came to light once he filed the required income disclosures — late, of course. It's not clear if that ever made it to the House Ethics Committee, but what difference does it make now?
Speaking of the House Ethics Committee! Last May, Bachmann posted a softly-lit YouTube video announcing that, after much deliberation, she'd decided not to run for reelection. Cynics speculated that perhaps her decision was not entirely based on a sober rumination on the pros and cons, but was instead predicated on one big con (so to speak): an ongoing investigation into her 2012 presidential bid that included alleged illegal payments to staffers. She was also forced to return a contribution she received from a convicted fraudster, but that's ancillary.
Though never reserved, it's clear that Bachmann's last year on Capitol Hill will include a lot of the sort of straight talk that made her famous. For example, she told Yahoo News on Wednesday: "Religious liberties and the protection of our religious liberties is right. Right now, there's a terrible intolerance afoot in the United States, and it's against people who hold sincerely held religious beliefs." This is a line of argument that's newly ascendant among conservatives in light of increased acceptance of same-sex marriage. But it's phrased as only Bachmann can, as a "terrible intolerance," that might be pushing the envelope a bit.
That wasn't even the most controversial thing she said this week. In an interview, Bachmann charged America's Jewish community — of which she is not a member — of having "sold out Israel" by backing President Obama. "What has been shocking has been seeing and observing Jewish organizations who it appears have made it their priority to support the political priority and the political ambitions of the President over the best interests of Israel," she said according to Huffington Post. Last month, she offered a partial explanation for why Obama got so much support: white guilt.
The obvious consolation from losing both of these exotic members of Congress is that they're likely to still find their way to a microphone on occasion. What each does next isn't clear; neither seems to have the sort of mainstream appeal of a Sarah Palin, for example. They'll be around, but not on Capitol Hill, voicing the priorities of the conservative right. About which Boehner can't be too unhappy.