Opie's All Grown Up Now
Part of Putnam's strategy for getting back into the majority is "getting out of Washington" and talking about big generational issues that he campaigned on in his first race for Congress: Social Security and healthcare. "I go back to the Social Security debate" of 2005, he says. "We should have had a university bus tour ... on that issue we owned the college generation because it's the young man or young woman about to get their diploma entering the workforce and paying into a system that everyone agrees will not have anything to pay them when they get to the magic age." Republicans, Putnam says, are "still licking the wounds" about why they lost the midterm elections-wondering whether they spent too much time on the social values agenda or not enough. But Putnam's focused on tackling the big issues such as Social Security. "He's a very studied person of very complex issues," says Susan McManus, professor at the University of South Florida. "He doesn't just shoot from the hip."
Having won re-election by an average margin of 40 percentage points the past two races, Putnam, a lay minister in his Episcopal Church and a commuter congressman with four small kids, is pretty safe in his central Florida district. Once an old southern Democratic bastion, the district has become steadily Republican over the past few decades. According to local lore, Putnam's grandfather once told reporters that at the age of 8 through 11 or so, Putnam said that he wanted to be governor, a suggestion Putnam laughs off-at least for the moment. Still, politics watchers in Florida see him traveling around the state more these days and mention his name in races for higher office. For now, at least, Putnam says: "I'm a House guy." A House guy suddenly in the minority. A House guy with a lot of work on his plate.
Born: July 31, 1974; Bartow, Fla.
Family: Married, wife Melissa; four children: girls 5, 4, 3, and boy, 5 months. Lives in Bartow, Fla.
Education: University of Florida, B.S. 1995, food and resource economics
Public Service: Florida House of Representatives, 1997-2000, Agriculture Committee chair; U.S. House of Representatives, 2001 to present, 12th District of Florida; House Republican Policy Committee chair, 2006; House Republican Conference chair, 2006