03/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How The Centrist Blue Dog Caucus Got So Much Power

The House of Representatives is a body that produces few stars, but Jim Cooper of Tennessee is a household name inside the Beltway. David Brooks has called him "one of the most thoughtful, cordial and well-prepared members of the House." He is viewed by the well-funded budget-hawk constituency as one of its most articulate advocates. Among his colleagues he has a reputation as a wonk and an intellectual--he even teaches a class at Vanderbilt University on health policy--and as the philosopher for the caucus of forty-nine conservative House Democrats known as the Blue Dogs.

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