On Monday night, Tea Party Patriots held a multi-part conference call introducing activists to the Republicans who want to run the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Appropriations Committee, and the Republican Study Committee. The Energy meet-and-greet came first, with only two candidates -- Joe Barton and Cliff Stearns -- dialing up. John Shimkus and Fred Upton couldn't attend.
A few months ago, the odds against Barton winning the job had looked insurmountable. During a hearing on the BP oil spill, he had apologized to executives for the treatment they were getting, then dialed back his apology on the command of GOP leaders. His term was up; he needed a waiver to get a new term. But Barton has waged an aggressive campaign against the other candidates for his job, and he's had backup from FreedomWorks and other conservative organizations that consider Upton, next in line for the job, to be unacceptably liberal. So in the call, Barton turned on the charm/
"I was Tea Party when the Tea Party wasn't cool," said Barton. "I was the fifth member, I believe, to join the Tea Party Caucus."
Barton previewed the argument he'll make tomorrow, before the steering committee that will decide whether or not to give him a waiver. He has the experience that other candidates lack and can get to work right away repealing "Obamacare" and fighting other Democratic bills.
"I don't think there's any daylight between what I stand for, what my constituents in Texas stand for, and what the tea party movement stands for," said Barton.
During the call, Tea Party Patriots opened up a text message vote for chairman. The results:
Barton - 53%
Stearns - 34%
Shimkus - 10%
Upton - 3%