Michigan congressman mulls crowded race for White House

Conservatives attracted by GOP bravado

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LANSING, MICH. — Eyeing a Republican presidential field that is already packed with long shots and boasts a front-runner who was also born in Detroit, Rep. Thaddeus G. McCotter is still mulling an unlikely run for the Oval Office.

The fifth-term lawmaker said he has not ruled out joining the already crowded GOP presidential field, hoping to be the first House member to go directly to the White House since 1880. The field of rivals grew by one Tuesday when former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. formally entered the race.

Despite some open doubts about the viability of a McCotter campaign, the congressman is planning a trip in the coming days to meet with tea party activists in Iowa, which holds the first party caucuses, and aides are in no rush to shoot down the campaign trial balloon.

“We have nothing new to report this week,” a press aide said Monday, after Mr. McCotters busy weekend speaking to the RightOnline gathering in Minneapolis, where he drew a standing ovation, and later to the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans - where he came in last in a straw poll.

Mr. McCotter lacks the marquee name that some rivals can boast, but he is not afraid to mix it up rhetorically - he called out former Massachusetts governor and fellow Michigander Mitt Romney for his comments on the auto bailout during a campaign swing here and then panned the performance of Republican hopefuls at last week’s New Hampshire debate.

Voters “have to hear an honest difference of opinion, rather than simply talk about what you may wish to do or why President Obama does what he does. You also have to make distinctions within a primary between yourselves and the others,” he told ABC News in a review of the debate.

The 45-year-old Mr. McCotter, who represents Michigans 11th District, is an attorney who first joined Congress in 2003 after years in the state Senate. He represents the Livonia area of Detroit, and is a rock guitarist for the congressional pickup band, the Second Amendments. The deeply Catholic father of three also is the author of “Seize Freedom! American Truths and Renewal in a Chaotic Age.”

His Twitter biography cheekily describes Mr. McCotter as an “ugly sweater maven,” and he has won a following among younger conservatives for his staunch anti-big government stances, including opposition to President Obama’s health care law.

While some blog posters have taken jabs at his balding countenance - one calling him Ichabod Crane - his Midwest bravado has also caught the eye of conservatives who say they are underwhelmed by the current Republican field and fearful of the party’s chances of unseating a vulnerable Mr. Obama in 2012.

“In my mind, hes one of the few pols who seem less interested in impressing celebrities or making cheap points of sentimentality than preserving the freedoms unique to our delightful island nation,” wrote Greg Gutfield of Fox News “Red Eye,” who has encouraged Mr. McCotter to run.

But GOP political strategist Cheri Jacobus said Mr. McCotters chances are slim.

“McCotter will have a tough time breaking through as he is a relative unknown, even among staunch GOP activists,” she said. “His challenge would be to draw a clear distinction between himself and the rest of the field, not to mention the fundraising catching up he’d have to do, which would be a small miracle in and of itself.”

State political watchers has speculated that Mr. McCotter’s logical next step would be to challenge Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow next year, but Mr. McCotter said in May that he would not mount a Senate campaign.

His flirtation with a White House run, however, could also put him in play as a strong conservative vice presidential running mate to the eventual GOP nominee.

David Wasserman, who follows House races for the Cook Political Report, said Mr. McCotters presidential chances are highly unlikely at this point.

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