Political experts said Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, had no chance last year in Utah's 3rd District race. But, of course, Orton won easily.
Now one of those experts, who happens to write an influential national political newsletter, is saying Orton is probably a fluke. Orton doesn't like that.In fact, Orton speaks as harshly about political commentator Charles Cook, his Cook Political Report and similar analysts as he has of anything else during his four months in Congress - including, say, Saddam Hussein.
Orton bristled when told that Cook had written that Orton was a probable fluke, that the hold of Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, on his seat was tenuous at best and that Utah Democrats shouldn't be too cocky despite holding two of Utah's three House seats.
"I don't waste my time reading his paper," the normally soft-spoken Orton snapped. "A lot of Republicans thought I was a fluke too, so they ignored me during the whole campaign."
And, of course, the political landscape is littered with their carcasses - in part because of Republican infighting that continued to election day despite advantages it gave Orton.
He thinks he knows why political experts treat him as a congressional Rodney Dangerfield - giving Orton no respect for his win last year.
"I guess people who are heavy into politics - I don't know if it's a conceit that they think they know it all - are surprised and think it has to be a fluke because they didn't see it coming. But I don't think I surprised the voters in Utah."
So not surprisingly, Orton said that when political experts give him advice, he often does the opposite. He doesn't take polls or hire consultants to help him decide how to vote or what to say. He talks directly to as many people as he can and trusts his own instincts.
"That probably makes a lot of political analysts somewhat nervous to see that someone can do that and be successful by ignoring them. I didn't ignore the voters as most candidates do," Orton said.
"Obviously the only response they can make is that's a fluke, because if it isn't a fluke, they're useless."
In fact, during Orton's political career, political experts have been more than useless to him - they have been a hindrance.
For example, when Cook's newsletter and others gave Orton no chance of winning, it destroyed Orton's chance of raising much money from political action committees because they pay close attention to Cook to decide where to best spend their donations.
Not only did Cook discount Orton's chances, so did Orton's own party. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee - which tells Democratic-leaning PACs where their money is most needed - also told PACs Orton had no chance.
DCCC Political Director Doug Sosnick recalled meeting with Orton in Washington last year. "I remember telling him, `You're bright, you're a good candidate, you're working hard. But let's face it: There's no way you're going to win in that district.' " He was happy to later eat his words.
But Orton had been left to finance his own campaign mostly with his own money. He is the only member of Congress who to this date has still never held a fund-raiser.
That will soon change. He is throwing his first fund-raiser next week - at the headquarters of the same DCCC that once said he had no chance of winning. Of course, it is now happy to work hard to ensure the incumbent Democrat holds his seat.
But Orton is not holding the typical fund-raiser that most political experts would expect. Instead of fancy hors d'oeuvres, he is planning to have "some barbecue and chips." Instead of a fancy site, he is just planning to use a DCCC meeting room.
And he isn't just inviting PACs and the nation's political elite. His staff and friends went through a directory of the Brigham Young University Management Society - a Washington-based group of BYU alumni and friends - to invite more common and everyday Democrats to the event too.
While political experts are correct that Orton defies conventional political wisdom, Orton doesn't care. He won. And he will keep doing what made him a winner.