Always be wary of a nut with a gun. If you’re a Republican, always be wary of a nut with a gun, riding a horse and wearing a cowboy hat, who owes the government money. Danger danger. The whole Cliven Bundy saga and his offensive rhetoric is embarrassing for the Republican Party and the conservative cause. But this episode is just the latest in a long history of Republicans wanting to champion a folk hero. Didn’t we learn a lesson from “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson? And thank heavens Bundy never made it to the candidate stage within the GOP. Going back to Claytie Williams — an early Ross Perot prototype — and his disastrous run for governor of Texas in 1990, Republicans are quick to get infatuated with eccentric, independent characters. And these days, we are sometimes too eager to promote these characters as “patriots,” only to have them flame out and hurt the party brand.

I’m all for citizen participation and decrying government overreach. But we are a little more than six months away from a very important election. Let’s not be too eager to embrace citizen “heroes” with an ax to grind. We need to focus on our candidates, the party and our message.  Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is working on outreach to voters who aren’t traditionally Republicans, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is talking about ways to slow the growth of government spending and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is pushing a Republican alternative to Obamacare. These are the topics that are worthy and deserving of attention. Let’s not distract from the issues that matter – the economy and Obamacare – with sideshows like Cliven Bundy. Remember, over time, politicians tend to make the best politicians. And, if we want to talk about government overreach and persecution, let’s stay away from the problems of fringe strangers and stick to the mass abuse caused by a stagnant economy and Obamacare.

Follow Ed on Twitter: @EdRogersDC