By Ramsey Cox - 01/30/12 10:00 AM EST
As one of the most outspoken freshmen, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) ruffled many political feathers in 2011. But he said his focus this year is on defeating President Obama.
“Our objective has to be respectfully to remove [Obama] from the White House,” Walsh said. “I don’t care if it’s Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul … whoever our nominee is, every independent and Republican has to get together and run through a wall for that nominee, and I think that’s going to happen.”
Walsh said he doesn’t believe endorsements by politicians matter because the voters should decide the Republican nominee, even if they decide it’s the most centrist of the remaining candidates — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Walsh said the media miss the fact that defeating Obama is a unifying factor for the splintered Republican Party.
“I am a Tea Party conservative first and I tell all the Tea Party crowds I’m in front of, ‘Look, Mitt Romney may not be your cup of tea, he may not be conservative enough but if he’s the guy, you’re going to hold my hand and we’re going to get him elected’ and generally the movement understands that,” he said.
Walsh said the Tea Party is growing every day and will continue to affect the political landscape.
“[The Tea Party is] the quiet, silent majority and if Romney isn’t Joe Walsh when it comes to being the Tea Party conservative, the influence of the Tea Party is seen in what Mitt Romney says,” Walsh said. “He’s going to repeal ObamaCare, he’s going to cut and simplify taxes, he’s going to cut government spending and regulations, he’s going to do everything the Tea Party movement is saying has to be done. So whether he’s our picture-perfect candidate, the influence of the movement is in what he will do, and the movement will continue to get conservatives elected to the House and Senate.”
Although House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has predicted Democrats will regain control of the House in November, Walsh said he “can’t fathom” that happening.
“In the two years that [Pelosi] was in charge of the House and President Obama was the president, they increased the debt and the deficit like never before,” Walsh said. “There is no way this country wants to go back to that, even if they’re upset with some of us Republicans who’ve been very outspoken in how bad things are right now and what we have to do to make things better.”
Walsh faces a tough reelection fight of his own. After redistricting, Walsh’s district became even more Democratic through the addition of most of the northwestern Chicago suburbs.
During his 2010 campaign, Walsh received no party support and barely won the seat, with only 290 votes more than his Democratic opponent, then-Rep. Melissa Bean. This year, despite being critical of leadership in the past, Walsh expects party support in a district that might be viewed by others as a lost cause.
“I have all the confidence in the world as a sitting member of Congress that I will be fully supported by my party,” Walsh said. “Us retaining the House is crucial and again this should be a very easy election for people. … If you like the direction this president is taking the country, and respectfully, if you want Nancy Pelosi back in the House, then get rid of me. If you don’t want to turn the keys of Washington over to Democrats again then this is an easy vote. … No one should be confused about what they want, even in that district.”
Walsh also will have to battle through concerns about being nearly $120,000 in arrears on child support payments to his former wife for their three children.
Walsh said last year frustrated him because he came to Washington to change the way this town does business but institutional barriers have made that difficult.
Despite that, Walsh said he has accomplished something.
“When I was asked during the campaign what I was going to do in Washington, I told people I was going to come here and scream from the mountaintop,” Walsh said. “A year ago nobody knew who Joe Walsh was, now everybody does.”
This week Walsh will have another opportunity to scream from his mountaintop at Thursday’s hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where Attorney General Eric Holder will testify on Operation Fast and Furious — a controversy Walsh said is grounds for Holder’s resignation.
“What he knew, when he knew it, why he didn’t know certain things — those are all important things and those are all troubling,” Walsh said. “I called for him to step down because this was one of the most outrageous programs that an aspect of our government approved, and somebody has to be accountable for that. It happened under his department so that alone to me is enough for him to step down.”