Rep. Marlin Stutzman has taken an interesting tactic in urging his fellow House Republicans to elect him as majority whip: I'm running because of 9/11.
The Indiana Republican, who launched a bid for the whip job late last week, circulated a letter to his colleagues Monday, pitching for votes against Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and current Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Illinois.
Scalise, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee, of which Stutzman is a member, has the lead heading into Thursday's likely contest if early whip counts can be trusted. (And, given that the election will be conducted via secret ballot when earlier promises can be ignored without repercussion, they probably can't.) Even so, perception matters. And it puts Stutzman and Roskam in the position of trying to force a second ballot and hope to pick up the others' supporters.
Both have written letters to colleagues laying out their positions in recent days to do just that. Stutzman's missive highlights his pedigree as an assistant whip in his state Legislature and as adviser to a strongly respected conservative voice: then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Stutzman goes on to lay out his plan to run a different kind of Republican conference, one in which lawmakers are given "timely" notice of legislation and amendments, and giving members more power to address local issues in their districts through legislation.
The letter, which can be read in full in the Washington Examiner, is an implicit shot at House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, who is the front-runner in the race for majority leader, as well as Roskam.
Stutzman's letter also highlights his history as a "fourth-generation farmer," comparing the House Majority conference to farm machinery and highlighting the importance of "the minutia of the engine parts" — lower-tier members who entered the conference during the tea party wave of 2010, like himself.
The metaphor helps to cast Stutzman — who represents Northeastern Indiana — as a viable alternative to Scalise as a true red-state Republican. The language appears to be aimed at appealing to members from conservative states who feel that they are underrepresented in a leadership roster that represents districts in California, Ohio, and Washington state. Roskam, meanwhile, has tried to gather up some of those members as well by vowing in his own letter to colleagues that he will choose a Southerner as his own deputy.
The letter is clearly targeted and represents one of Stutzman's few opportunities to present his case to his colleagues; the House left for the weekend just hours after he announced his candidacy and won't return until Tuesday night.
But given the clear calculation of the letter in drawing contrasts between Stutzman and his opponents, his closing remarks are a little puzzling. "I'm running because on September 11, 2001 I promised my three-week-old son a better, more secure America, and I see a way forward that will help me keep that promise," Stutzman writes.
The language is strikingly similar to the Republican's biography on his campaign website. It reads: "When the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, became the front lines of America's war on terror on September 11, 2001, Marlin, as a new father, held his three-week-old son in his arms, watching the horrific events unfold. Like so many Americans struck by the uncertainty and challenges their children would face, Marlin and his wife Christy soon made the decision to become more involved in their community."
Clearly the message worked for voters. Perhaps it will work again.