MODERN-DAY GOP HERO…. I’ve generally steered clear of every little Joe Wilson-related development, but numbers like these are hard to overlook.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) has turned his “You Lie” outburst into what is likely to be the biggest third-quarter fundraising report in the House.

Wilson announced Thursday that his campaign raised $2.7 million in the third quarter and had $2.6 million cash on hand. That amount of money is more than twice as much as Wilson spent in his entire 2008 reelection race.

Now, Rob Miller, Wilson’s likely Democratic opponent, has also benefited from contributions generated by the controversy, but let’s pause to appreciate Wilson’s $2.7 million haul.

Andrew Sullivan noted the other day, “Here’s what the Republican party now is: they reward heckling the first black president with funding for the heckler close to $2.7 million. The rage out there is very, very real. They may be a minority, but their passion and volume is so great. They intend to destroy any attempt by Obama to get past the ideological faultlines of the past and seek practical solutions to profound problems; they intend to blame Obama for all he inherited from Bush and Cheney; and there is no responsible Republican leadership that will try to stop them.”

When Wilson first came to public attention as a result of his conduct, he was something of an embarrassment. Congressional Republican leaders, you’ll recall, pressed him to apologize. “Saturday Night Live” made him the butt of humiliating jokes. He joined Kanye West and Serena Williams as cultural touchstones on adults misbehaving in public.

But at the same time, Republican activists had a different idea: they made Joe Wilson a hero. The right-wing lawmaker, whose most notable professional achievement was supporting the Confederate flag, heckled the president during a speech to a joint session of Congress.

So conservatives gave him $2.7 million in three months. And it’s very likely they’ll keep throwing money at him over the next year.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.