Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock resigned Tuesday, less than 12 hours after POLITICO raised questions about tens of thousands of dollars in mileage reimbursements he received for his personal vehicle....This happened because ... well, you know:
The congressman's woes began in February, when a reporter for the Washington Post published photos of Schock's lavish new Capitol Hill office. The decor was allegedly inspired by the British period drama "Downton Abbey." Schock later reimbursed the $40,000 cost of the office decor with his personal funds.He's on his way out -- but back in 2009, when he had just been sworn in to his first term and was the youngest member of Congress, after a presidential election in which a young Democrat beat an old Republican, Schock was, like so many Republicans for so many reasons, touted as a potential superstar. I keep telling you that Republicans are much more inclined than Democrats to describe their own as stars in the making, the result of which is a Beltway belief that the GOP is chock-full of talent and the Democratic Party is bereft. For a moment, Schock was one of those up-and-coming Forces to Be Reckoned With.
That story prompted other outlets to take a closer look at Schock's finances. The Associated Press used photos from Schock's Instagram account to trace flights he took on donor's private planes using taxpayer and campaign funds, while Buzzfeed noticed that Schock had used a lectern during appearances in his home district that appeared to be a replica one used by President Obama -- and cost roughly $5,000.
See this Details article from 2009 (hat tip: McKay Coppins):
[One] reason Schock has drawn so much attention is what conservatives now refer to, in hushed, reverential tones, as "the Air Force One story." In February, when Barack Obama traveled to Peoria to stump for the stimulus bill, the president invited the congressman along for the trip, and lobbied him -- privately, aboard Air Force One, and then publicly, during a rally at a Caterpillar plant -- to vote for the bill. Maybe Obama figured that the freshman congressman would be an easy sell. But the day after the trip, Schock voted against the stimulus package, denouncing it on the House floor as a "skunk." In doing so, Schock became a GOP folk hero -- a conservative Cool Hand Luke who looked Obama in the eye and didn't blink. "That was a true test of character," says John Shimkus, one of Schock's fellow Republican representatives from Illinois, "and Aaron passed it with flying colors."That aired on March 8, 2009. Schock had been in Congress approximately two months.
... When [a Chris Wallace interview with Schock] airs in Fox News Sunday's "Power Player" segment, Wallace has added a coda: "What about Schock's future?" he asks. "Governor Schock?" Pause for effect. "President Schock?"
Republicans do this all the time; they're doing it right now, in a more sustained and serious way, with Tom Cotton.
If you're a Democrat, you might not get this kind of attention even if you've won a blowout election or won multiple elections or are wildly popular in your state. For one thing, no media outlet provides for Democrats what Fox and talk radio do for Republicans: pure public relations. No conference works for Democrats the way CPAC and similar conferences do for Republicans.
Even seasoned Democratic pols don't get mentioned as potential presidential candidates, because the "liberal media" thinks they're boutique tastes and wouldn't go over in the heartland. If they were Republicans, there'd have been presidential talk in recent years around California's Kamala Harris, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Gavin Newsom, not to mention renewed discussion of Jerry Brown. At least briefly, there might have been talk of New York mayor Bill de Blasio as a possible presidential contender after his blowout win in 2013, in a race in which he hadn't even been the favorite in the Democratic primary. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar might be mentioned as possible presidential candidates from Minnesota. Hell, if Schock could be touted on Fox despite the fact that he is (and was at the time) widely believed to be a gay man in the closet, then why aren't Democrats trying to make a star of Kate Brown, the accidental (and openly bisexual) governor of Oregon, who just signed a bill making voter registration automatic in that state?
I'm not saying that Brown could be elected president; I'm not sure Chris Wallace was really saying he thought Schock could be. But Republicans float such ideas about their own to create the perception of popularity. Democrats hardly ever do that, and suffer as a result.