GOES WITH THE JOB: Protestors gather outside Tim Griffin's office in Little Rock to confront him on government shutdown.
For the second time, I'm inclined to take U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin
at his word.
The first time, I had to correct myself. That was on the occasion of his ill-chosen words following gunfire around the U.S. Capitol
. Surely, I originally wrote, he didn't mean to blame the shooting (by police officers it turned out) on Democrats' rhetoric. It was intemperate, insensitive and it also came from a man who styled himself an armed political hit man for George W. Bush. But, turns out, he really did mean it. He apologized only for his timing, not the words themselves.
Now at issue is his decision not to seek re-election in 2014. He said it was a family decision. His young children need a dad at home. Both were born before his first race in 2010, true, but they are at that impossibly endearing age. He has a big house with a big mortgage. Mom might want the kids to attend private school some day. It costs a lot of money to live in two cities. A congressman's pay, at $160,000, is a lot, but maintaining a two-city existence is hard.
I accept the family explanation. Admire it even, though it meant making some long-time supporters unhappy. The seat is in play for Democrats.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
is taking credit, however. It says Griffin was one of 17 congressmen it has targeted, as Buzz Feed writes,
"to pester, protest and downright annoy." It's an operation it calls the Heat Wave program.
“For the first time, the DCCC worked with state partners in the off year to put grassroots communications coordinators on the ground to harness and focus local frustration over this outrageous Republican Congress into heat on the vulnerable Republican Members – and it worked,” said DCCC spokeswoman Emily Bittner.
A few youngsters hassling Griffin for questions to uncomfortable questions at public apprearances would drive this Karl Rove-trained hit man out of the race? Hard to credit. Protests from a variety of groups, not all aligned with the Democratic Party, turn up at congressional offices with some frequency. But I do think Griffin knew Pat Hays
was committed to the race and that it would be no walkover. He faced a year of non-stop money raising and campaigning in addition to the already taxing job of being a congressman shuttling between two cities. That might have contributed to the calculus, but I'll still buy the family explanation.
Griffin is certainly as cocksure as ever.
“I won by 20 the first time, 16 the last time. [Mitt] Romney won this district by 12, [John] McCain won it by 11, [George W.] Bush won it twice. I don’t think they [Democrats] have a shot – I think they think they have a shot,” he said. “But they don’t have a shot. They are under the mistaken belief that because there was a Democrat in the seat for a long time that this is a liberal or Democrat seat. It is not. And if we put up a viable candidate, we will win this seat.”