U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay was likened to Stonewall Jackson, Lyndon Baines Johnson and a courageous World War I officer Thursday as members of the Texas Republican congressional delegation joined the former House majority leader to endorse his re-election.
The unusual display of GOP solidarity was remarkable for DeLay, who is aggressively campaigning for re-election to the seat he has held comfortably for 22 years. This year he faces a contested primary March 7, and if he wins, a credible candidate in Democrat Nick Lampson in November.
"He's got a contested primary; that's why we're here," said U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis.
DeLay, R-Sugar Land, resigned his leadership post as he became embroiled in an ethics scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff and faces trial later this year on felony money-laundering charges.
The Republicans took turns singing DeLay's praises as a selfless leader who not only helped get them elected, but also won Republican majorities in Congress and the Legislature, and brought home the bacon for NASA, the port of Houston and other local needs.
U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla of San Antonio likened him to LBJ, the former Democratic president from Texas, for "altering the political axis in our state."
U.S. Rep. John Carter, who represents the Central Texas Hill Country, likened DeLay to a World War I lieutenant who led his men out of a trench into battle and is "willing to have a target on front and back saying, 'shoot me first."'
And U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Houston said DeLay was like Stonewall Jackson, willing to take the shots on behalf of the GOP troops.
Bonilla noted that such an event was unprecedented in a primary season and was a signal of the loyalty DeLay has engendered in Washington.
A Lampson spokesman saw it differently, recalling that Vice President Dick Cheney also headlined a fund-raiser for DeLay last year.
"He's had the vice president bail him out, and now he's got to have the delegation prop him up. That's got to be humiliating," Mike Malaise said.
Tom Campbell, DeLay's primary opponent who set up an RV outside the GOP rally, said the event proved he was making inroads.
"I understand loyalty," Campbell said. "But it's important for us as a party to move through this fog of scandal."
DeLay hugged his wife, Christine, as he thanked the group.
"The Democrats are picking a fight with the wrong delegation," he told a small crowd.