After what had been a quiet election season up to then, freshman U.S. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao had an extraordinarily up-and-down ride last week, beginning with a highly flattering profile in the Oct. 3 edition of The Washington Post by staff writer Steve Hendrix. The glow was short-lived, however; that same day, President Barack Obama released a campaign ad for Cedric Richmond, Cao's Democratic challenger. In the ad, the president said, "New Orleans needs Cedric Richmond in Congress — and so do I."
Obama had quietly endorsed Richmond in mid-September, and Cao had countered with a high-profile endorsement by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand and several African-American ministers. Still, the forcefulness and timing of the Obama ad seemed to catch the Cao campaign off guard. Cao spokesman Devin Johnson told FoxNews.com, "He didn't even have the courtesy [to call us before the ad ran]. That hurt the congressman."
Cao's rejection by Obama was cast as an "et tu, Brute?" moment by some Republicans, who attempted to portray the candidate as a bipartisan moderate whose attempts to work with the administration only got him stabbed in the back. Los Angeles Times political blogger Andrew Malcolm wrote a provocative piece titled "Republican Rep. Joseph Cao reaps the rewards of bipartisanship; Obama thanks him the Chicago way," noting that Cao was the only GOP representative to vote in favor of Obama's health care bill in November 2009 (but omitting that Cao cast a second vote against its final passage in March). Richmond's campaign cites other high-profile instances of Cao voting with the GOP bloc against Obama.
While Cao has indeed crossed the aisle with his votes more than the average House member, his numbers aren't that stark. According to the 111th Congress Votes Database maintained by The Washington Post, Cao voted with the GOP 82.4 percent of the time. The average House member, according to the same site, voted along party lines 88.3 percent of the time. — Kevin Allman