Rep. Stutzman Invokes Sept. 11 Attacks in Pitch for House Whip Job

In his bid to set himself apart from the field, Stutzman’s 9/11 reference strikes an odd note.

Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
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Sarah Mimms
June 16, 2014, 11:50 a.m.

Rep. Marlin Stutz­man has taken an in­ter­est­ing tac­tic in ur­ging his fel­low House Re­pub­lic­ans to elect him as ma­jor­ity whip: I’m run­ning be­cause of 9/11.

The In­di­ana Re­pub­lic­an, who launched a bid for the whip job late last week, cir­cu­lated a let­ter to his col­leagues Monday, pitch­ing for votes against Rep. Steve Scal­ise of Louisi­ana and cur­rent Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Illinois.

Scal­ise, who chairs the con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee, of which Stutz­man is a mem­ber, has the lead head­ing in­to Thursday’s likely con­test if early whip counts can be trus­ted. (And, giv­en that the elec­tion will be con­duc­ted via secret bal­lot when earli­er prom­ises can be ig­nored without re­per­cus­sion, they prob­ably can’t.) Even so, per­cep­tion mat­ters. And it puts Stutz­man and Roskam in the po­s­i­tion of try­ing to force a second bal­lot and hope to pick up the oth­ers’ sup­port­ers.

Both have writ­ten let­ters to col­leagues lay­ing out their po­s­i­tions in re­cent days to do just that. Stutz­man’s missive high­lights his ped­i­gree as an as­sist­ant whip in his state Le­gis­lature and as ad­viser to a strongly re­spec­ted con­ser­vat­ive voice: then-In­di­ana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Stutz­man goes on to lay out his plan to run a dif­fer­ent kind of Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence, one in which law­makers are giv­en “timely” no­tice of le­gis­la­tion and amend­ments, and giv­ing mem­bers more power to ad­dress loc­al is­sues in their dis­tricts through le­gis­la­tion.

The let­ter, which can be read in full in the Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner, is an im­pli­cit shot at House Ma­jor­ity Whip Kev­in Mc­Carthy, who is the front-run­ner in the race for ma­jor­ity lead­er, as well as Roskam.

Stutz­man’s let­ter also high­lights his his­tory as a “fourth-gen­er­a­tion farm­er,” com­par­ing the House Ma­jor­ity con­fer­ence to farm ma­chinery and high­light­ing the im­port­ance of “the minu­tia of the en­gine parts” — lower-tier mem­bers who entered the con­fer­ence dur­ing the tea party wave of 2010, like him­self.

The meta­phor helps to cast Stutz­man — who rep­res­ents North­east­ern In­di­ana — as a vi­able al­tern­at­ive to Scal­ise as a true red-state Re­pub­lic­an. The lan­guage ap­pears to be aimed at ap­peal­ing to mem­bers from con­ser­vat­ive states who feel that they are un­der­rep­res­en­ted in a lead­er­ship roster that rep­res­ents dis­tricts in Cali­for­nia, Ohio, and Wash­ing­ton state. Roskam, mean­while, has tried to gath­er up some of those mem­bers as well by vow­ing in his own let­ter to col­leagues that he will choose a South­ern­er as his own deputy.

The let­ter is clearly tar­geted and rep­res­ents one of Stutz­man’s few op­por­tun­it­ies to present his case to his col­leagues; the House left for the week­end just hours after he an­nounced his can­did­acy and won’t re­turn un­til Tues­day night.

But giv­en the clear cal­cu­la­tion of the let­ter in draw­ing con­trasts between Stutz­man and his op­pon­ents, his clos­ing re­marks are a little puzz­ling. “I’m run­ning be­cause on Septem­ber 11, 2001 I prom­ised my three-week-old son a bet­ter, more se­cure Amer­ica, and I see a way for­ward that will help me keep that prom­ise,” Stutz­man writes.

The lan­guage is strik­ingly sim­il­ar to the Re­pub­lic­an’s bio­graphy on his cam­paign web­site. It reads: “When the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Shanks­ville, Pennsylvania, be­came the front lines of Amer­ica’s war on ter­ror on Septem­ber 11, 2001, Marlin, as a new fath­er, held his three-week-old son in his arms, watch­ing the hor­rif­ic events un­fold. Like so many Amer­ic­ans struck by the un­cer­tainty and chal­lenges their chil­dren would face, Marlin and his wife Christy soon made the de­cision to be­come more in­volved in their com­munity.”

Clearly the mes­sage worked for voters. Per­haps it will work again.

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