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McCotter Goes It Alone

Quirky 2012 Bid Latest Head-Scratching Move

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter brought his guitar to his presidential announcement earlier this month in Whitmore Lake, Mich.

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Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul have cultivated a national following that has propelled their presidential campaigns and ambitions.

Then there’s Thaddeus McCotter, a chain-smoking, guitar-playing Congressman who seems destined to be a footnote when history looks back on the 2012 race.

While his colleagues can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars via one email or “money bomb,” the Michigan Republican’s quixotic bid provokes more head-scratching than it earns headlines or cash.

Known for his wonkiness, his quirky personality and his musical abilities, even McCotter acknowledges his goal is far from finishing well at the Ames straw poll next month.

“We view it as an introduction, not as a test,” McCotter said in an interview with Roll Call.

Back home in Michigan, McCotter could have bigger problems on his hands than a fledgling presidential bid. Local press have skewered his national campaign, and a Republican state Senator is already running for his seat.

All of this prompts speculation that this could be the Congressman’s last term in the House, and even McCotter won’t commit to running again for re-election.

“I’m not entertaining that. I’m focused on the presidency,” he said. “That’s my No. 1 goal.”

Lennon and Camel Lights

It’s not uncommon to find McCotter strumming his guitar alone in his Congressional office. In between votes, the lanky Republican smokes on the Speaker’s balcony, taking a drag off a Camel Light held between his thumb and two fingers.

A few years ago, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) counted McCotter as one of his closest acolytes. But the married father of three is more of a loner these days.

Four years after the GOP Conference elected McCotter chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, he surprised his colleagues in 2010 by calling for its disintegration. His proposal to return the RPC’s funding to the Treasury Department increased his tensions with leadership, already exacerbated over the years by his penchant for using curse words during meetings.

McCotter’s quirks are legendary among Hill staffers, and aides who work for him tend to either love or hate the Congressman. He has employed at least nine senior press aides over almost 10 years, according to employment records on LegiStorm, but his most recent chief of staff stayed for several years.

McCotter has been known to summon aides to informal staff meetings in his car, driving around while smoking. When a job candidate once asked him why he became a Republican, McCotter’s response included, “Because I hate commies.”

His office walls display posters of the Rolling Stones and John Lennon.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), one of McCotter’s Congressional bandmates in the bipartisan group the Second Amendments, praised his guitar-playing talent but chuckled when he described McCotter as “a mercurial spirit.”

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