Can He Survive?

On the one hand — and actually on several hands — I find it almost preposterous to think that Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) would be forced to give up his committee post over his apology/tragedy comments this morning — notwithstanding one GOP Rep.’s call for him to do just that. That’s just not how the GOP caucus functions. But I actually think there’s some reason to wonder whether he’ll be able to hold on to his seat as ranking member (senior Republican and Chairman-in-waiting) of the Energy Committee through the Fall.

The big enchilada this Fall is the House. And a big part of the equation will be the degree to which Democrats are able to raise fears of a return to Republican rule that are strong enough to blunt the strong anti-incumbent tide. And in this case, the ads just write themselves:

“If “candidate X” wins the man in charge of Energy policy in Washington will be Joe Barton, the guy who actually (incredulous and contemptuously inflection on ‘actually’) apologized to BP for making them pay to clean up the Gulf Coast.”

It’s not something the election is going to turn on. But it’s a nice tag line for a lot of Democratic incumbents’ commercials this fall.

Late Update: Maybe sooner than I realized? From Greg Sargent

“This may not be the end of the story,” the [GOP] aide says, adding that if he starts making similar noises about BP, he’s out. “Boehner and Cantor told him he came within a centimeter of losing his seat, and to strongly keep that in mind.”

I’m also told that Barton’s retraction came after Boehner and Cantor exerted heavy pressure on him, and that there was wrangling over Barton’s final statement — another sign that GOP leaders knew just how lethal Barton’s apology to BP was for the party.