Michael Grimm might be new in Congress, but you might already be quite familiar with him if you watch enough cable news.
“A lot of people I know have told me, ‘that guy Grimm, he’s everywhere!’” said one Democratic official. “CNBC, Fox Business, the WB morning shows….he is just always on TV.”
A look at a recent month’s worth of media scheduling for Grimm revealed at least seven national televised appearances on ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox and Fox Business News, with at least the same number again for New York City radio and television appearances. That aggressive scheduling is impressive for the political novice, whose first foray into public office began last year when he scored a bit of an upset victory against Democratic incumbent Michael McMahon.
Grimm’s ubiquity is no mistake, he says.
“I work hard to get those media spots. There’s a reason why I do that,” Grimm said, saying his home of Staten Island is “the forgotten borough” and needs a strong advocate to elevate its issues. “I think by raising my profile, using the airwaves, I can be more effective at doing that.”
And Grimm has certainly been successful at raising his profile, helped by being the only Republican member of Congress in New York City. Echoing the thoughts of many Republican political insiders, Geraldo Rivera called Grimm a “rising star” three times in a recent interview, while the Republican leadership in D.C. gave Grimm a relatively prestigious spot on the House Committee on Financial Services and a speaking slot on one of the GOP’s weekly addresses.
“I think a lot of it comes from his background. If you look at his pedigree, he’s a marine, a former FBI agent and a businessman,” raved Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton. “I find him to be a real dynamic congressman, more dynamic than anyone else I’ve seen.”
Having “undercover FBI agent” on his résumé perhaps uniquely equips Grimm to handle an aggressive media schedule with relatively few gaffes and mistakes.
“There’s nothing that’s going to phase Michael Grimm. He’s a guy who’s looked across the tables of mobsters and criminals and didn’t blink,” said Steven Stites, who worked as Grimm’s campaign spokesman in the last election. “I don’t think he’s going to look at a CNN interview and blink.”
Even Democrats will acknowledge Grimm’s media skills.
“He’s articulate, he’s good on camera, and he can tell the storyline really straight,” said Andrew Gounardes, a leader in the local Bay Ridge Democrats.
However, Democrats are also quick to argue that Grimm’s interviews provide a more controlled format than the town halls they allege he’s been neglecting.
“He doesn’t hold a town hall in his own district!” said Kevin Elkins, a Staten Island Democratic operative, when asked about Grimm’s media schedule. “Most of the time he goes on TV, Staten Island is rarely mentioned. … Instead he’s talking about national issues.”
Grimm’s frequent interviews, as well as the outspoken positions he takes on these national issues, could hurt his reelection odds in his blue-collar swing district that both Al Gore and George Bush won.
“I come out there strong for my positions, it certainly could be unpopular and there sure could be a backlash,” Grimm admitted. “To me it’s not about a popularity contest.”
Pointing to Grimm’s support of both Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicaid plan and Speaker John Boehner’s debt ceiling proposal, which significantly reduce entitlement spending, Democrats argue he’ll experience some backlash.
“He was in front of both of those issues, as a lead spokesman for the Republican Party,” contends one national Democratic operative. “In a district that’s moderate, they’re not going to want someone who is literally out in front of those issues”
Even some Republicans have sent some ominous signals. The New York Times reported that the House Republican whip, Kevin McCarthy, warned Grimm, “Don’t do press for press’s sake. They’ll bring you up, and they’ll also bring you down.”
Although Democrats are determined to make him a one-term Congressman, some think Grimm could use his elevated profile to run for higher office. “If he’s very strong in six to eight years, there’ll be a pull for him to run statewide,” one Republican consultant said.
Grimm himself isn’t especially coy about his future ambitions. “I’m extremely ambitious, and have been my entire life, but right now I’m extremely content representing New York’s 13th,” he said. “What God wants of me in the future, combined with my ambition, we’ll see.”
Tags: ambition, Andrew Gounardes, Bay Ridge Democrats, Congress, Congressman, Craig Eaton, Freshman, Geraldo Rivera, GOP, John Boehner, Kevin Elkins, Kevin McCarthy, media, Michael Grimm, Michael McMahon, Paul Ryan, Republican, Staten Island
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