Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter spent much of this cycle as the butt of late-night jokes. But no one on Capitol Hill is laughing at the Republican’s latest gaffe — botching his ballot petition for re-election and forcing a write-in campaign.
Republican operatives are privately livid with McCotter, who spent much of last year trotting around the country for his quixotic presidential campaign, for jeopardizing an otherwise-safe seat and potentially costing valuable resources.
The five-term lawmaker’s campaign turned in less than a quarter of the requisite signatures to seek the GOP nomination in the 11th district. On Tuesday, McCotter announced he would forge ahead with a write-in campaign for his party’s nod on Aug. 7.
“You’re not going to have a community who’s going to come behind him on this,” former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) said. “I’m sure some folks who supported Congressman McCotter in the past aren’t happy. Are they going to be there to support him? I don’t know.”
Now Republicans must decide whether to allocate serious resources to save McCotter — a former acolyte of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and quirky loner.
Publicly, House Republicans pledged to support McCotter’s write-in campaign. Majority Leader Eric Cantor told Fox News on Tuesday that he would back McCotter’s write-in campaign. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) will help McCotter “raise the resources he needs,” committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said.
McCotter welcomed House Republican leaders’ support in a phone interview. He said he has not asked for their financial help — yet.
“I intend to honor that trust and confidence,” McCotter said. “I welcome their help if necessary as determined over the coming weeks.”
But McCotter will have to join the Patriot program, the NRCC’s incumbent retention program, which requires meeting specific campaign benchmarks.
Privately, House Republicans acknowledge that is a hurdle for McCotter. They are concerned with his fundraising and campaign infrastructure — faults that became more evident with his ballot mishap.
It doesn’t help that McCotter has not been a team player for House Republicans in recent cycles. He hasn’t made a significant donation to the NRCC since 2008, even though he has not had a competitive re-election race yet.
“I imagine this will be a nose-holding exercise of having to help someone help themselves,” one top House GOP aide said. “The NRCC, despite his lack of participation, is still a membership-based organization.”
Republicans expect McCotter to win re-election easily if he’s their nominee. The GOP-controlled state Legislature made the district safer for Republicans during redistricting last year.
Before this incident, McCotter’s likely general election opponent, internist Syed Taj, didn’t even make the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program for its top 63 challenger candidates.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.