Rep. Darrell Issa, the bombastic chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and prominent scourge of liberals everywhere, is in New Hampshire this week.
The 60-year-old Californian is making speeches. He published an op-ed that introduces his life story to Granite State residents. And he’s prompting the obvious question.
“He is not running for president,” said Kurt Bardella, a former Issa congressional aide whose firm, Endeavor Strategic Communications, now handles Issa’s politically related media inquiries.
Bardella said Issa gets many requests to attend events in other states. There were two appearances at the end of last year in Pennsylvania, and there are two in his home state later this week. “Congressman Issa wants to do everything he can to help grow the Republican Party and play a positive and impactful role in shaping its message going forward,” he said.
Issa is well known as a vocal critic of President Obama and his committee’s investigations into the Benghazi tragedy, Operation Fast and Furious, the IRS, and Obamacare have made headlines. He draws support from both tea-party and fiscal conservatives.
But under GOP rules, Issa’s term as Oversight chair expires at the end of 2014 after six years as the panel’s top Republican, unless he seeks and gets a rare waiver.
There is no disputing that Issa’s team has been engaged in an aggressive public-relations push to make sure attention is paid to his appearances this week in New Hampshire, his published column, and his prodigious fundraising.
On Tuesday, Issa is set to give his second and third speeches in the state in two days at a breakfast in Manchester for a committee to elect statehouse Republicans, and later at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. On Monday, he gave the keynote at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner address to the Concord-Merrimack County Republicans.
The op-ed appearing under Issa’s byline Sunday in the Concord Monitor carried the headline, “Darrell Issa: Here’s the difference between Republicans and Democrats.”
“The only way to make government work better is to restore genuine accountability. That is the role I have played in Congress as chairman of the House Oversight Committee over the last few years,” Issa wrote.
Issa also laid out a bit of personal biography, describing his growing up in Cleveland, the grandson of a Lebanese immigrant, and as part of a “working-class family.” And he tells of going into the Army and then living a success story in building a small company into a leading maker of auto security and convenience products, which he moved to California. Issa is, by some counts, the wealthiest member of Congress.
Issa has also raised a great deal of money, hauling roughly $2.1 million into his campaign so far this election cycle — second only to Rep. Paul Ryan among the 23 House committee chairs when considering only their campaign accounts. He now has more than $3 million stockpiled — and no well-funded challenger.
The numbers could suggest that Issa’s aggressive investigations and red-meat attacks on the administration are popular in the Republican Party. Could Issa grow more popular too?
Experts say Issa would likely be an asterisk in presidential polls right now, but that he is articulate and has made the most of his forum on the Oversight Committee.
His fundraising — done as the head of a committee that is not a traditional money magnet — is also well respected.
But Issa is also now a Washington insider, part of an institution that is extremely unpopular in public polling.
“Darrell’s also abrasive and single-minded “¦ and when it comes to members of Congress who really detest Barack Obama, he’s going to be on everybody’s top-three list. That alone sets him apart,” pollster John Zogby said.
But Zogby does see at least one solid benefit to Issa’s New Hampshire activity, whatever his aspirations.
“I think there’s a certain cache when you appear larger than your district,” he said. “It gives more clout to your gavel.”