Every State of the Union, the same group of aisle hogging Congressmen camp out at the House chamber early in the day, in order to land prime real estate for when the President makes his grand entrance.
As Salon’s Steve Kornacki explained before the 2011 State of the Union:
There’s a handful of congressmen and -women who always seem to end up perfectly positioned to cross paths with the president — and to get their own faces on national television — as he makes his way in. This is no coincidence. Seating for the State of the Union is not assigned; senators and House members claim their spots on a first come, first served basis. So when you seen a member of Congress standing along the center aisle as the president enters, chances are good that he or she staked out his or her turf early — as in hours early.
The five House members that Salon most often spotted on the aisle, from 2011 and back about ten years, were Dale Kildee, D-Mich., Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., and Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., with runners-up Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Al Green, D-Texas, and Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio.
The 2012 SOTU was no exception. In this video of Obama’s entrance, you can spot Kucinich, Engel, Kildee, Schmidt, and Jackson Lee (Jackson, Jr. was not present). If you listen closely, you can even hear Obama, as he greets Engel, say he was checking the wrong side of the aisle for him: “I was wondering, I said, ‘Where’s Eliot?’”)
But 2013 creates a whole new dynamic: Kucinich lost his seat. Kildee retired. Schmidt lost her primary. Jackson resigned amid fraud allegations. So there’s room for a whole new batch of eager freshman to desperately stake their claim to a little prime-time exposure. And lawmakers are alreadylining up this morning, hours in advance, for their chance in the spotlight. Stay tuned.
Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.