The lone congressional Democrat to be endorsed by the Tea Party movement will accept the endorsement, even though his campaign is concerned about the optics.
Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) received the official electoral backing of the Tea Party Express (the largest group affiliated with the broader movement) on Thursday. The announcement was entirely unexpected for the Idaho Democrat -- the lone Democrat to get an endorsement nod from the group.
"It was a complete surprise," said John Foster, a spokesman for the Congressman.
And while Minnick is fine with the endorsement - "Um, sure," Foster replied when asked if the campaign was accepting the Tea Party's backing. "Walt is not in the habit of turning down support." The congressman is cognizant of the reception it could receive among the broader Democratic community.
"Being on a list with [lightning rod conservatives] Joe Wilson and Michele Bachmann is not something we are embracing," Foster said. "But we do appreciate that they recognize Walt's firm stance on fiscal accountability."
On the surface, it would appear that the Tea Party Express put Minnick on its support-list for the sole purpose of having a token Democrat. The group, after all, has long pledged that it isn't a stooge for the GOP -- though every other congress member they're supporting is Republican, and all their targets are Democrats.
But Foster tried to make a compelling case that the Minnick endorsement wasn't just window dressing. While the congressman had only spoken to the Tea Party Express once, it was during the infamously contentious August recess. "They invied all four members of Idaho's delegation and Walt shocked everybody by being the only one who showed up in person and he stood his ground," said Foster. "He got a lot of support for his fiscal stance. But very little support for what he said about the president [for whom he reiterated his support]... By the end of the 90 minutes they gave him a standing ovation."
"I think [the endorsement] is an indication of the work he has done here on the ground but more importantly being able to talk to anybody and look for common ground wherever he can find it," Foster concluded.
On policy grounds, as my colleague, Jason Linkin notes, the endorsement makes some sense as well -- though not entirely.
If the Tea Partiers had to back a Democrat, they could do a lot worse than Minnick, a freshman Congressman from Idaho's 1st District. Minnick is a member of the House's Blue Dog coalition, and cast votes against the stimulus package, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and, most recently, the health care reform package. The Club For Growth has also praised him for his opposition to earmarks.
Of course, it's not a perfect fit. Minnick nevertheless found enough less consequential ways to have voted with the Democratic caucus 69.7% of the time. Also, he voted to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is like the Obamacare of ensuring that women receive equitable compensation for the work they do.
National Review's Jim Geraghty, who supports the election of Vaughn Ward to Idaho's 1st District, has a "quibble" with the endorsement, saying, "Walt Minnick's first vote as a congressman was to make Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House, empowering her a great deal." Yes! That whole time Nancy Pelosi became Speaker did lead to a certain measurable amount of empowerment. This is a great observation!
Anyway, Walt Minnick is the one Democrat that nobody will draw a Hitler mustache on today, so he's got that going for him. We're checking to see if Minnick has accepted the endorsement.
This article was updated from its original version to incorporate Foster's remarks.