Daniel Bongino wants to be more than just an interesting story.
The former Secret Service agent to President Barack Obama is running for Maryland's U.S. Senate seat, and while he appreciates the media attention he's gotten for his former career -- he's appeared on Fox News multiple times and was featured on Discovery's Secret Service Secrets -- he wants people to think of him for what he can do in the Senate, not his history of protecting presidents.
My economics background certainly gives me a bona fide reason, Bongino said about becoming a senator. I don't think the background story even helps that much. I think sometimes people hear me talk and have this image of a Secret Service agent and people are shocked.
Bongino spent 12 years with the Secret Service, but is more interested in highlighting his educational and business background than discussing the intricacies of Obama's daily habits. He has both a bachelor's and master's in psychology from the City University of New York, earned while working as a police officer in New York City, and recently obtained his MBA from Penn State University.
The Severna Park, Md., resident believes his experience in economics is what most qualifies him to replace first-term Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md; he owns several small businesses with his wife, Paula, and believes he truly understands what is plaguing the country.
The time for talk is over, it's done, he said. If you aren't a man of action and just speak of words, the electorate doesn't have time for you. My entire life I've been a man of action -- I've been a Type A person. We need to control government spending immediately.
If spending is not controlled, it is a mathematical certainty that the country will go bankrupt, Bongino said.
Despite facing an uphill battle in a notoriously blue state, Bongino thinks the momentum is starting to shift in his favor. His recent appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in mid-February netted him 50 to 75 media interviews, 400 new volunteers, and hundreds of new unique visitors to his campaign website.
He's earned endorsements from Maryland Republicans, as well as notable national Republicans like Rep. Joe Walsh R-IL and Rep. Mike Lee R-UT that he hopes will continue to shine the light on his candidacy.
Bongino is currently campaigning for the Republican primary, but has a substantially bigger war chest and donor base than any of his competitors. Right now, he is focusing on winning his primary -- former Pentagon lawyer Richard Douglas is one of his competitors -- but the media's focus often turns to his battle against Cardin.
A recent Washington Post story detailed that Cardin raised approximately $700,000 in the last three months of 2011; Bongino raised $61,000. Still, the Republican challenger believes that despite the big financial discrepancy in Cardin's favor, it is his opponent that should be worried.
The fact he has only outraised me 9 or 10 to 1 should make him scared, he said defiantly. (Incumbents) always raise their money early. He's feeling he will raise $3 to $5 million and I'm absolutely confident we will raise the same amount. (Massachusetts Sen.) Scott Brown raised $2 million in a day. I've got a funny feeling we will have the exact same experience.
Cardin may have a solid approval rating in Maryland -- recent polling data shows 47 percent favor him while 20 percent disapprove -- but frequent questions regarding his whereabouts have Bongino believing that his lack of presence in Maryland and Washington is hurting the state. People constantly come up and ask: Where is Cardin? Bongino said. It's even become a Twitter hashtag.
He's the milquetoast senator, he said. I like to say that Maryland is missing two senators because they just vote the party line. No reason for Maryland to get any national interest because there is no diversity of political thought.
Bongino still has a lot of obstacles to overcome, though. In addition to the money discrepancies and the Democratic-leaning tendencies of Maryland, he must also fight back an early endorsement Cardin received from his former boss -- the president.
But even Obama's vote of confidence in Cardin hasn't shaken Bongino's.
We have more than a fighting chance, he said. I think we are really going to shock some people.
Correction: The initial edition of this story incorrectly stated that Rep. Joe Wilson had endorsed Daniel Bongino. Bongino received an endorsement from Rep. Joe Walsh.