More than two weeks have passed since Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-Weirdo) told Politico’s Jonathan Martin that he would decide within two weeks whether he’d run for President, but he still hasn’t made an announcement. He has, however, used Mitt Romney’s visit to McCotter’s district to whack Romney for opposing federal help for the auto industry and saying Detroit should go bankrupt. He’s also taking pot shots at the rest of the Republican presidential field.
McCotter served on the labor committee in the Michigan Senate, and I was the Democratic staffer for those four years. McCotter is one of the weirdest politicians I’ve ever been around. He’s mercurial, socially awkward, smug and more than a bit mean. He got to Washington by drawing his own Congressional seat, and along the way he’s made some negative impressions. In a 2002 Rollcall article (subscription only) Congressional handicapper Stu Rothenberg had this to say about McCotter:
I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates for office, and most of the lost causes and serious contenders stand out immediately. But sometimes it’s not so easy to separate the winners from the losers.
As evidence, I present Republican Thaddeus McCotter…
A former Wayne County commissioner who was elected to the Michigan state Senate in 1998, McCotter, 36, will win the August Republican primary in Michigan’s newly created 11th district. That will make him a prohibitive favorite for November, since President Bush carried the district two years ago and the Democrats haven’t recruited a credible nominee.
But if I’ve interviewed a candidate who was less communicative, more arrogant and more difficult to like, I can’t think of one. And I’ve tried.
I thought my assessment of McCotter might be unique until I asked others. I found I had plenty of company, both in Michigan and Washington, among both reporters and Republican politicos.
How does someone as humorless as McCotter succeed? First, it doesn’t hurt that his mother, Joan, was president of the Livonia City Council and now serves as the city clerk. That’s how Thaddeus made it to the county council and then the state Senate.
But why would GOP state legislators agree to do a favor for someone so disagreeable by drawing a Congressional district for him? It’s a lesson in politics. McCotter was picked for the committee that drew the lines and had a say in the final shape of the district because he volunteered to take a bullet for the state Senate Republicans by agreeing to chair a committee that expelled controversial GOP state Sen. David Jaye from that body.
McCotter has a minor leadership post in the House, but he’s distinguished himself by little other than weird outbursts, such as suggesting that Catholics criticizing him were devils. I can’t see how, other than suffering from severe delusions, McCotter would think he’d be a credible candidate for President. Nevertheless, today we have a bit of evidence to suggest he’s going to take the plunge.
Michigan Republicans have just released their official proposal for Michigan’s next Congressional map(pdf). A quick look at the map suggests that the district containing McCotter’s Livonia home is probably a bit more Republican than his current marginally Republican seat. But what’s interesting is that it includes the city of Troy, which is the base of state representative Marty Knollenberg, son of longtime Republican Congressman Joe Knollenberg, who was defeated in 2008 by Democrat Gary Peters.
The younger Knollenberg announced a few months back that he intended to run against Peters. This map would suggest Knollenberg doesn’t have a path to Congress, since he’s now lumped in to the same district as McCotter. But Knollenberg has some leverage over the process, as he’s on the house redistricting committee, and if he votes against the map, the Republicans would have only a 1 vote buffer to get it to the floor.
It’s not clear that Peters has a district to run in, and if so which one it would be. Under this map, he would be in the same district as fellow Democrat Sandy Levin, the one time and possibly future chair of the House Ways and Means committee. But Levin will be 81 years old in November 2012, so he may give Peters a clear shot at the Democratic-leaning seat. Thus, Knollenberg may not be able to avenge his father’s loss to Peters, even if Peters does run for reelection. But there is one way he’d have a fairly clear path to Congress: if McCotter doesn’t run for the House.
It’s hard to think Michigan Republicans would want to get rid of McCotter; weak though he may be, he’s still more of a certainty of holding a seat than a candidate running in an open seat. But the talk from at least one prominent Republican isn’t about McCotter keeping his Congressional seat. This week L. Brooks Patterson, longtime Oakland County executive, suggested that McCotter fill the GOP’s gaping hole on the ballot against incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.
Patterson knows that McCotter running against Stabenow would mean there was an open Congressional seat for the Republicans to defend, and he’s smart enough to know that McCotter would probably not beat Stabenow. Maybe he’s trying to lure McCotter out of Congress, maybe to create an opening for Knollenberg or some other Republican. Or maybe he knows that keeping McCotter in Congress is a lost cause, and rather than letting him drift off to a disastrous presidential campaign, he figures McCotter could at least be a somewhat credible opponent for Stabenow.
Based on a cursory look at the proposed Republican map–provided it isn’t overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court, unlikely since the court is controlled by Republicans–will give Republican incumbents a bit more protection. But that damage will be mitigated if Thaddeus McCotter, as it looks like he will, decides to walk away from Congress to run for President. That’s a bit of good news for Democrats.
If McCotter runs for President the other good news for Democrats is the Republican presidential debates will be much more fun to watch, because McCotter won’t be like Tim Pawlenty and wimp out from attacking Mitt Romney or anyone else on the stage. Get ready to pass the popcorn.