What Is Darrell Issa Doing in New Hampshire?

Issa: Continues gun-running probe.
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Feb. 17, 2014, 3:05 p.m.

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.”

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