Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

Republicans Mostly Shrug Off Bill Maher Threat

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

King, above, isn’t afraid of being targeted by Maher. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Bill Maher’s announcement that he would be trying to oust a member from Congress was meant to scare Republicans, it doesn’t seem to be working.

Republicans expressed little trepidation at the prospect of Maher putting his influence — and his HBO show — into the effort of ejecting them from Congress as part of his plan to “flip” a district.

Maher’s executive producer, Scott Carter, told The New York Times they wanted to pick a truly competitive race and would likely pick a Republican to target.

Rep. Steve King, the Iowa firebrand known for making provocative statements — like the one about the calf size of illegal immigrants carrying drugs across the border — has been a frequent target of Maher already. But King didn’t show any fear Wednesday at the prospect of becoming the comedian’s pet project.

“I think he should run for office, that’s what I think,” said King, who won re-election in 2012 with 53 percent of the vote. “He’s got a safe seat right now. Anybody that’d put their name on the ballot is deserving of our respect, so let’s see if I can start to respect Bill Maher.”

King added that if Maher decided to run, “then all the comedians can make fun of him.”

That’s not to say that every Republican wants to take on the cable comedian.

Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia, who faces a tough Democratic challenger in former Pentagon official Suzanne Patrick, wasn’t about to trash the HBO star.

“The idea that he could influence a number of people is not in dispute,” Rigell said.

The second-term Republican said many people, “in particular many young people,” are getting their news from Maher, “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” and he said it was “not wise to provoke someone.”

Freshman Andy Barr, R-Ky., who eked out a victory over former Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler in 2012 with 51 percent of the vote, gave perhaps the answer you would expect — he is focused on doing the job he was elected to do.

“And I don’t worry about what Hollywood says about me or any other member of Congress,” Barr said, adding that he is “too busy” with his work for Central and Eastern Kentucky “to worry about what other people in Hollywood or elsewhere around the country are saying.”

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who was the leading force against an amendment that would have ended the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of phone metadata, won his 2012 re-election with 59 percent of the vote.

CQ Roll Call caught up with Rogers and moderate New York Republican Michael G. Grimm, who recently threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony, as the duo came out of the bathroom during Tuesday afternoon votes.

“I think he ought to stick to Hollywood,” Rogers said of Maher.

“I concur,” said Grimm, who won his re-election bid with 52 percent.

Republicans in some of the safest districts had a reaction akin to “bring it on” — even though Maher seems intent on targeting more vulnerable members.

Asked if he was afraid, Missouri Republican Rep. Jason Smith said “absolutely not.”

“Try a district that’s a plus-17 Republican district,” he challenged.

Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., who has represented his conservative Tennessee district since 1988, dismissed Maher.

“Bill Maher is an extremist on the far-left in American politics,” Duncan said. “He’s out of step with all but a very small minority in this country, and certainly I don’t think he could ever be elected to anything anywhere.”

Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado suggested Maher wasn’t particularly popular in his district either. “I would welcome him and share with him all the things that make my district great,” he said.

When asked whether Maher’s stated affinity for marijuana, which is newly legalized in Gardner’s home state, might draw him to the district, Gardner said he’s not worried.

“That, in my district, is not too popular either,” he said.

Republican Lynn Westmoreland, who sits in a safe Georgia seat and was unopposed in 2012, made it clear he wasn’t afraid of Maher, but, ever the politician, he wasn’t about to condemn or provoke him.

“This is a free country, and I mean everybody’s open to run,” Westmoreland said.

Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.

  • cliftonbritt

    Bill Maher! Champion of the brain dead! Anyone Willie Maher is trying to oust will automatically get my undying support. Financially and other.

    • Borstal

      I’m guessing both your financial and other support are negligible.

  • Scott Curtis

    I live in Iowa, and am a fan of Bill Maher. Unfortunately Steve King is untouchable… His district is full of bible-thumping, Fox “news” watchers incapable of rational thought. Maher should focus his atteniton elsewhere.

    • Roberto M

      Implying that Bill Maher is capable of rational thought is a stretch. Even by today’s standards, he is a lunatic!

    • left wing

      scott, do you just hate or do you get paid by dems to post their scripts. obviously YOU are incapable of thought.

    • Erica Mathis

      “I live in Iowa, and am a fan of Bill Maher”

      I’m sorry for you. I find it almost unfathomable that a Bill Maher fan could accuse others of irrationality.

  • cliftonbritt

    Borstal, my contributions aren’t nearly as negligible as twerps like you.

    • Ab

      Your photo looks like you are an old person waiting for your end-of-life care benefits to kick in. We also have a hungry shark problem in the US. You + hungry shark = cost savings

  • Gerald Boesen

    Influence? He has influence with the Pajama Boys, the Moochers and the 40-year olds who are angry that Hermione did not marry Harry Potter – I suppose this is a spoiler alert for the OFA Trolls.

    • Erica Mathis

      I don’t get the 40 year old crack?

  • Meyerdude

    Bill Maher is an intelligent caring person. He doesn’t want to run for anything, he wants to try to replace at least one bat-shit crazy republican. I applaud him for his effort! People who say he is brain dead just can’t figure out his humor. He usually uses more than one four syllable word in a paragraph and that just screws up most republicans.

  • Mary Gibson

    We live in an age of Arrested Developmnt Republicans, there is not one statesman in this present party. Unlike the Republicans of yore, all they have is eccolalia, Bengazi, Bengazi, Bengazi

    • Erica Mathis

      I bet you couldn’t name a half dozen Republicans in congress without google.

      • Mary Gibson

        I bet I can, can you?

      • JimB

        My bet is that she has never voted for a Republican. And probably never read any serious writings by conservative authors. Liberals think they are sooooo smart. Socialists, mostly.

  • left wing

    bill not making enough money at hbo, so thinking about moving to the dem corrupt politics where he can become a MILLIONAIRE overnight with the graft, corruption and political payoffs available to a good lemming dem.

  • disqus_qKVofJNoeH

    “Likely” pick a republican?

  • G21

    That collectivism unleashes evil is proven by the history of dictators claiming that the society’s well-being depends upon its subjugation.

  • Ed Davis

    If a comedian can write a book entitled “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot”, and then get himself elected to the US Senate (Al Franken, D-Mn) then Maher could possibly ‘flip’ a Congressional seat. Not much difference in Rep King and Rush Limbaugh, except that the latter is the Boss of the Republican Party and a multi-millionaire.

  • Erica Mathis

    Bill Maher, the blithering idiot who thought Brazil went off oil 30 years ago, lol. George Will totally OWNED Maher. Made him look like a petulant child. Classic!

  • Mary Gibson

    Boehner, Cantor, Renacci, Portman, Tiberi, Reed, Rubio,

  • Mary Gibson

    Cruz, Boehner Rubio, Portman, Renacci, Reid, Again I did not need to Google these Erica, I leave that to Tea Party Republicans to do!

    • JimB

      Well, I guess Senators are part of congress, broadly speaking. But Reid? Harry? Republican? Or Reid Ripple, maybe. Is he a Republican?

  • Wuthie

    Most the people that voted these people in aren’t going to change their vote unless they are really going against what they wanted. I don’t listen to these TV people. I listen to my legislator, watch how they vote, notice how they answer my questions and try to listen to non partisan news and vote for the one that best fits my ideals, Republican or Democrat. Republicans have gone too far right for me. Seem to be more interested in money and the rich than in helping America and the people.

    • JimB

      Lemme see. Nonpartisan news. MSNBC, NBC, CNN…and NPR. That’s right!

      • Wuthie

        No! I listen to Fox News, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, and Beck. That were you find the truth. NOT!!!!

  • Thomas Aquinas

    Since we have many goals to consider pursuing, the basis for deciding which efforts are worth the risk must be estimates of useful value rather than useless merit.

  • Justin Time

    Maher’s best bet to flip a district would be the one Bachman won, but she is retiring. Their is no way he will flip Louie Gohmert’s district for instance and most candidates in 51-49 districts are level headed people

    At best Maher putting a spotlight on a district might be able to change the vote by 1%

  • Thomas Aquinas

    Since collectivist illusions are generally conjured up to exploit our emotions and attempt to justify plunder’s injustice, we have no reason to accept them as moral, legitimate, or just.

  • backToSchool82A

    Those who harbor nefarious intentions tend to subvert freedom by insisting that the temporary views of fleeting majorities justify charting courses opposed to morality, liberty, and prosperity.

  • ExVariable

    Since liberty begets courage and industry, people in free states have the opportunity to make the most of their talents and be better off than those living under the shackles of collectivism.

  • Stephen Barlow

    Didn’t Colbert kinda ease loudmouth Cain out of the primaries? Or did he so that all on his philandering, no policy brains own?

  • JimB

    IMHO the people that Bill Maher (tingle man) would influence would not vote Republican in the first place. Meyerdude has it bassackwards. Maher is the batshit crazy man.

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