High-Profile House Members

CHRIS PUMMER: A member of the U.S. House of Representatives looking to raise his or her profile by pandering to the farthest extremes of their base is more likely to find a dead end than a road to a higher political platform.

Joe Wilson comes to mind immediately, as he’s now infamous for yelling “You lie” at the president during a joint session of the House and Senate. Sure, Wilson raised a lot of money in the aftermath of his outburst. But so did his potential opponents. What should have been an easy hold for the Republican Party for a South Carolina seat will be that much more expensive, negating whatever fundraising was fueled by Wilson’s cry.

Wilson likely punted any aspirations for higher office as the same time as it will be hard to live down his moment of uncouth infamy.

Michele Bachmann labors under the same unfortunate circumstances as Wilson. Before the 2008 election she went on television and suggested it would be a good idea to investigate members of Congress for “anti-American” views.

The aftermath included an avalanche of money for Bachmann’s opponent, and in a weirdly gerrymandered Minnesota district that should heavily favor a Republican, Bachmann won by fewer than three percent over the second-place Democrat. A third party candidate took 10 percent of the vote.

Since then Bachmann has only ratcheted up the rhetoric, and is again faced with having to put big dollars to match possible opponents to hold a gimme seat.

That’s what separates Bachmann and Wilson from someone like Alan Grayson. Grayson narrowly won his district in Florida, and while his rhetoric might also endanger his seat, his seat likely would have been in play nonetheless.

Standing at the podium and stoking a crowd of the craziest crazies your party has to offer might feel good for these pol’s egos. But they can’t forget that while they’re standing in the spotlight, they’re also wearing a target.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Chris is right- making high-profile, incendiary comments may put a member’s seat into unnecessary jeopardy. But he is looking at the short view.

These guys, remember, aren’t likely to become President of the United States. Even the U.S. Senate is going to be a stretch for the more extreme among House members.

But having a memorable “You lie!” moment increases the chances of:

1. Getting a book deal
2. Appearing on television more
3. Landing a high-profile lobbying job
4. Perhaps fronting a Tea Party Cookbook or Liberty-Themed Restaurant

In short, it takes the Cloak of Invisibility away forever. Michelle Bachmann will have a national constituency no matter what she does now, as will Joe Wilson.Think that doesn’t matter? Think how long Ed Rollins and Dick Morris have stuck around on the national scene, feeding off the teet of Big Media Argument.

And with their moments in the infamous spotlight, these House members have a lifetime pass. Yelling “Baby Killer” means never having to get a job on merit again.

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