by Charles Lemos, Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 04:23:20 PM EST
Less than 24 hours after his upset defeat of a longtime Democratic congressman from New Orleans, Anh "Joseph" Cao found the weight of the entire Republican Party resting on his diminutive shoulders.
The chairman of the Republican National Committee said Cao's election Saturday night showed that, even battered and bruised from political drubbings in the past two years, Republicans "still know how to win elections." House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) was more blunt, issuing a memo Sunday declaring: "The future is Cao."
Well it might have helped that Anh "Joseph" Cao ran against a political corpse, indicted Congressman William J. Jefferson down in the Louisiana 04. It's not much different than up in Alaska where Mark Begich bested convicted felon Senator Ted Stevens. Still for the GOP, Anh Joseph Cao, the first Vietnamese-American elected to the US Congress, is a bright hope even if the GOP establishment didn't offer him much support for his historic run.
Yet just three weeks ago, no one in the GOP establishment had even heard of Cao. They didn't know his improbable story of triumph -- how he fled war-torn Vietnam after the fall of Saigon as an 8-year-old refugee jammed into a helicopter. Now they've seized on his rags-to-political riches story, along with the victory last week of Sen. Saxby Chambliss in a special election in Georgia, as rare pieces of good news after the dismal November elections.
Vietnamese-Americans have long supported the GOP for reasons not unlike those of the Cuban-American community, a hatred of a communist system that they feel stole their country from them. Every April, here in San Francisco, Vietnamese-Americans will gather to commemorate the fall of Saigon. Every year, that crowd gets thinner and decidedly older.