To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee’s statement of organization a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution.
When Rep. Bill Posey introduced H.R. 1503 back in March, he gained wide attention as the most prominent Republican official to take up the birther cause. That movement, which falsely charges that Obama is refusing to produce his birth certificate and that he is thus not a natural-born citizen, long had as its highest-profile members far-right figures like Alan Keyes and Phil Berg. But here was a freshman Republican, sworn in the House just two months before, willing to make a congressional issue out of the fear that Obama is not a legitimate president.
When asked whether he believed Obama was a natural-born citizen, Posey avoided offering an answer. “I haven’t looked at the evidence. It’s not up to me to look at the evidence,” he explained. “I can’t swear on a stack of Bibles whether he is or isn’t.”
For two months, Posey was the only Republican willing to champion that bill but his isolation was broken in early May when Rep. Bob Goodlatte became H.R. 1503’s first co-sponsor. In June, four other Republicans added themselves to the list: Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. John Campbell, Rep. John Carter, Rep. John Culberson and Rep. Randy Neugebauer.
One thing these seven representatives have in common is that they are all members of the Republican Study Committee, a congressional caucus that groups the GOP’s conservative wing. Their association with the birther bill is now tagging them as members of the party’s most extreme right, so let’s take a closer look at what we know about these representatives and whether they could face competitive re-elections races; in the last column, I indicate whether they are signed-up as co-sponsors of Michele Bachmann’s paranoid constitutional amendment that seeks to defend the dollar’s role as the U.S. currency against depressingly misunderstood threats:
|Name||District||First elected||2008 Prez vote||2008 score||Bachmann bill|
CA-48 obviously stands out. John Campbell represents a district that voted for Obama in 2008; while it only did so narrowly, it was enough to label Campbell as vulnerable. Not only does CA-48 appear in my ratings, but is rated in the already moderately competitive “lean retention” category because Democrats have a highly credible challenge lined up: former Irvine Mayor Beth Krom has already jumped in the race.
Two other districts that are moderately competitive are FL-15 and TX-07. In the former, Posey (the leader of the House Birthers) is only a freshman and he occupies a district that is barely staying faithful to its Republican roots. While Democrats didn’t put up much of a fight in 2008, Posey is not entrenched enough to be certain he’ll easily win a second term. As for Culberson, he represents a staunchly Republican district but he had trouble closing his 2008 campaign: Democrats were excited by their nominee and the race created some buzz, though Culberson did prevail by 14%.
Of course, championing the birther bill will not end any of these 7 Republicans’ congressional tenure. For those, like Neugebauer and Blackburn, who are looking to move into higher office and know they have nothing to worry about but the Republican base, it could even prove a career booster. But the 3 congressmen who are already vulnerable - Campbell, Posey and Culberson - should to be careful not to make themselves into extremists isolated at their party’s fringe; as both Bill Sali and Bachmann showcased in 2008, that is a sure way to put yourself in electoral danger and lose your grip on a red-leaning district.
Speaking of Bachmann, isn’t the biggest surprise of this list her continued absence from it? The Minnesota congresswoman recently declared “I’m a foreign correspondent on enemy lines,” so would you not think she’d be interested in proving that the president is indeed a foreigner? Perhaps Bachmann is too busy in her newest crusade: The U.S. census. She recently declared that her family would not be filling any more information than the number of people in her household because she is concerned about governmental intrusion and about ACORN’s involvement with data collection.
Bachmann’s outburst led three conservative Republicans - Patrick McHenry (North Carolina), Lynn Westmoreland (Georgia) and John Mica (Florida) - to pen a letter urging her to reconsider her decision. The GOP does have reason to worry: If movement conservatives pick up Bachmann’s concerns as their new crusade and massively boycott the upcoming census, it could lead to conservative households to be undercounted. Even a small phenomenon could have consequences in terms of district allocation and redistricting, none of them to the GOP’s benefit.