Rep. Putnam: Maturely Playing the Age Card

U.S. Congressman Adam Putnam is, at 27, the youngest member of Congress. Were he an intern or a page, the Bartow redhead might still get some doubletakes. He’s that boyish looking.

His early Washington experience includes being ID-carded by political-reception bartenders as well as Capitol security. He’s heard all the age jokes — and retells his share. He’s obviously savvy enough to know that self-deprecating humor usually plays well. Why not use it and defuse it?

He cites, for example, the increasing number of politicians who have had to rationalize, if not lamely explain, embarrassing incidents of their past as “youthful indiscretions.” We the empathetic public tend to cut them some slack because we’ve all been that age and, well, done that.

“You can imagine what that does for a guy like me,” deadpans Putnam.

But the rookie Republican rep knows that the age card is a double-edged one. You can, of course, look too young for a big job, or you can appear surprisingly mature beyond your years — and appearance. It’s a variation on the expectations theme — a scenario that has benefited, among others, President George W. Bush, who also played, lest we forget, the “youthful indiscretion” card.

Putnam, whose 12th district will include a redistricted sliver of Temple Terrace, acquitted himself well in a recent talk to the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa. The fifth generation Floridian may look like Opie, but he communicates more like Ron Howard.

Cut clean and conservative, he’s more Up With People than MTV. He’s hardly a poster pol for the greens.

He doesn’t cringe, for example, at the prospect of drilling in 2,000 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, nor does he think campaign finance reform is such an urgent issue.

To wit:

*”Florida is the only Gulf state that objects to drilling

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