President Obama gave the last press conference of his first term on Monday, setting the stage for a new term that has the potential to look a lot like the old one. Just as it was after the 2010 midterm elections, the president finds himself negotiating with a Republican-held House with a large batch of fresh faces and various crises on the horizon. As I noted in an earlier article, a full 38 percent of the House has served for less than three years, the highest percentage since the 1994 Gingrich revolution.
That means there’s plenty of room for newbies to stand out, and there’s no one way to do that. Here are four different freshmen taking four different paths to stand out as leaders:
The Experienced One: It seems like an oxymoron for someone in the freshman class to have “experience.” By very definition they are new to the job. But Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., isn’t new to the halls of the Capitol. He has served as chief of staff for three members of Congress, so he knows the inside and out of the lower chamber. This could allow Hudson to be both a trusted newbie and a sage wiseman at the same time. “I can’t stand up on a desk and tell them all to follow me,” he said on his first day in Congress earlier this month. “But we need to come to a consensus about what our objectives are, and who our leader is going to be. The lesson we’ve learned these last couple of years is that we need to agree as conservatives and then fight for what we believe.”
The Young Gun: There aren’t a lot of guys who managed to be liked by both the outside tea-party groups and the leadership in the House of Representatives. But Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has managed to do just that. The 35-year-old retired Army veteran may have just been elected to the House, but his name has already been floated as candidates to run against Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in 2014.
The Outsider: If you don’t know who Rep. Ted Yoho is, then you probably haven’t been paying much attention to the House these past few weeks. The former large-animal veterinarian made a splash with his first vote on his first day in office when he cast his ballot for Rep. Eric Cantor to be speaker of the House. This is a guy who says he doesn’t owe his leadership anything, and that having spent years dealing with large deadly animals isn’t about to be intimidated by people in his party.
The Operative: As reported by my colleague Shane Goldmacher, before Ann Wagner had even won her seat as a representative from Missouri, she had already introduced herself to 34 members of her new class and had contributed money and campaigned for other GOPers around the country. It’s the kind of political move that comes from someone who knows how to play the game, and having served as a cochair of the Republican National Committee from 2001 to 2005, Wagner knows how to do just that. “She just has so much potential and skill sets,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told National Journal Daily. “I expect big things from Ann all around.
Reporter: Ben Terris