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The Case Against Shuler as Minority Leader

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For those of you unfamiliar with sports-speak, an audible is basically a play called at the line of scrimmage by a quarterback. Former NFL QB turned Congressman Heath Shuler (NC-11th) was rated by ESPN as the 4th worst professional sports draft pick in history when he was drafted by the Washington Redskins . Shuler professes to have learned from his failure on the field and now lays claim to possessing the political skills necessary to lead the 112th Congress' Democratic minority. He's been in full offensive mode ready to challenge Speaker Pelosi as house minority leader. He lays blame at the feet of Speaker Pelosi for the shellacking House Democrats suffered in the midterm elections while ignoring that perhaps it's the economy, stupid might have been a contributing factor.

Bad audible Heath. As before.

Shuler's assault on Pelosi as a failed leader is neither new nor a surprise. He lambasted both Pelosi and Speaker Reid at an economic forum in Raleigh, NC as having "failed on bipartisanship" -- at a time when the 111th Congress had been in session barely a month That comment prompted Reid spokesperson Jim Manley to respond

Let me get this straight -- this is coming from a guy who threw more than twice as many interceptions than touchdowns?

Despite Heath's remarks the DSCC later targeted him as a top prospect to challenge incumbent GOP Senator Richard Burr in 2010. One of Heath's colleagues in the NC caucus told me

that trial balloon blew up pretty quickly after they trotted Heath out to meet major donors.

Over the the course of the 111th's term Shuler's outmatched Blue Dog backfield ran into a rock-solid GOP defense that didn't surrender a gap for any forward progress. Shuler is whip of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition that lost 31 of its 54 members in the midterms. A review of partisanship ratings by the The National Journal suggests that the 112th Blue Dog Coalition will be populated by more of its left-of-center members (Pelosi's bench) than its centrist-to-right members (i.e., Health's starting lineup). So much for Shuler's Bipartisanship Audible.

But he keeps going. In an article in yesterday's New York Times Shuler defended

my guys... that did all the right things, voted the right way and still got beat.

That's the Shuler Catch-22 Audible.

We've yet to see if Shuler follows through with his presumptive Hail Mary Audible to challenge Speaker Pelosi. Even if one accepts the notion that House Democrats will need to pivot to the right in order to compromise with the GOP majority, it is comical for a pro-lifer like Shuler to suggest he's remotely capable of leading the minority.

This is a guy who voted against the health care bill, the stimulus package, DADT repeal and the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill. During his first term he voted against ENDA, a vote he defended by comparing protecting "people based on sexual preference" from discrimination as equivalent to protecting kids who wear glasses from discrimination (err, bullying.) He then goes forward to suggest that there are "laws in place that actually prohibit" the sort of protections ENDA would offer? I'm not kidding. Here's the Shuler Straw Man Audible.

As for those crutches he's sporting in the video? I'm told he called a standard bootleg audible in the cloakroom, but was tackled by Nancy Pelosi.

ADDENDUM NOV. 17th:

The National Journal reports that Shuler and fellow NC Blue Dog Mike McIntyre's districts are amongst the GOP's Top Hit List for Redistricting.......