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Who Is Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, Entering GOP Presidential Race?

Martin Gould

2011/07/01 12:23

Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter leaves many people wondering “Who?” with his announcement that he will enter the Republican presidential field on Saturday as the 10th declared candidate.

With Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul already vying to be the first to jump from the House of Representatives to the White House in 132 years, McCotter faces an uphill struggle for name recognition, finance, and support.

As a strong conservative, he also may have difficulty differentiating himself from candidates such as Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain, who have spent the past few months raising their profile.

But the five-term Michigan representative is undaunted. Borrowing a phrase that several other candidates have used, a campaign source told the Detroit Free Press, “He’s in it to win it.”

The 45-year-old father of three represents the affluent northern suburbs of Detroit in the House. A former lawyer, he was elected to the Michigan State Senate in 1998 and moved to the national stage four years later.

But he is an unconventional politician. He plays lead guitar — a star-spangled Telecaster — in a bipartisan House rock band called the Second Amendments. He once compared Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” with The Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

His website is called mccotterrocks.com, and the top item on the morning before he is due to make his candidacy official was a YouTube video of him playing Chuck Berry’s “Let it Rock” with Mike Huckabee.

He tried to shut down the Republican Policy Committee when he was its chairman, reports the National Journal, and he once proposed a $3,500-a-year tax break for pet owners under a bill called the “HAPPY Act” standing for Humanity and Pets Partnered Through The Years.

He also has taken some positions that will leave him open to attack from other conservatives if his campaign gains traction. He voted to end Bush-era tax cuts and has supported organized labor and government bailouts of both General Motors and Chrysler.

McCotter has been hinting for months that he might enter the race, but he has gained little attention. He has visited Iowa several times to test the waters and has secured a place on the state’s Ames Straw Poll scheduled for August.

He claims five core principles as the basis of his campaign. They were set out in his book “Seize Freedom,” which was released in February. They are:

  • Liberty comes from God, not government
  • Sovereignty is in our souls, not the soil
  • Security is from strength, not surrender
  • Prosperity comes from the private, not the public, sector
  • And truths are self-evident, not relative.

One of McCotter’s top advisers told CBS News that he decided to run because he feels there is a gap in the field.

“He has something to say and has some ideas and some policies to put out there that nobody else is discussing right now," the adviser said. "His presence in the race is going to force these issues and force this discussion that the country has to have right now.”

Former Republican Congressman Vito Fossella told Newsmax that his friend McCotter will add a new dimension to the race. “He is very rooted in the greatness of America and the notion that individual liberty and personal freedom are what this country are truly all about.

“He will be entertaining,” added the former New York representative.” He’ll certainly mix things up a little bit. He’s a great guitar player and, in a country where people sometimes take themselves too seriously, he is a guy who is self-deprecating and realizes it’s OK to be funny and mock yourself a little bit.”

McCotter will take over from former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as the rank outsider for the Republican nomination. He joins Johnson, Bachmann, Cain, Paul, Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Jon Huntsman as declared candidates.

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