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Rep. Aaron Schock's youth and media strategy might not fit the Congressional mold, but neither does the 30-year-old lawmaker, who is using his notoriety to build his legislative and political profile.
"Obviously, there are people that are going to say, 'Oh you know, I don't like that style' or 'I don't think that makes sense.' But I'm a big believer if you want to change people's minds or get someone to vote for you, either a voter or a colleague, you've got to first get their attention," the Illinois Republican said during a recent interview in his office.
"If people don't know who you are, they're not going to listen to your message. And not everybody pays attention to politicians by watching Fox News and CNN," he said.
Schock came to Congress in 2009 with a bang, thanks in large part to shirtless pictures on celebrity gossip website TMZ. Rather than cower from the attention, Schock embraced it, most notably by posing shirtless for Men's Health magazine last May.
"When Men's Health reached out and said, 'Will you be on the "Today Show" and do a fitness challenge?' I said, 'OK. I'm not showing them anything they don't already know,'" he said. "But I'm going to take what some would argue is a negative or not substantive and turn it into a substantive thing to hopefully do some good for people."
Schock noted that 40,000 people participated in what he described as the most successful fitness challenge campaign ever launched by the magazine.
"It made an impact," he said unapologetically.
Schock is also building up his own political profile back home. He helped recruit freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger and campaigned for many of the four other House GOP candidates who won in Illinois in 2010. He gave $319,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2010 cycle, and during the past two election cycles, he has raised more than $1.3 million for Congressional and statewide candidates.
Schock also started the Majority Makers program this year to target state House and Senate races back home. He created it with $250,000 of seed money and some financial buy-in from Rep. John Shimkus and Illinois state House lawmakers. Illinois Republicans need to win seven state House seats to win the majority in that chamber, and Schock's Majority Makers aims to clear 10 victories this year.
For Congressional races, Schock has his GOP Gen-Y PAC.