CAPITALIZING ON BARTON…. Democratic campaign committees know an opportunity when they see one. And clearly, Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) apology to BP is an opportunity.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) blasted out a fundraising e-mail pointing to Barton’s comments as evidence the GOP is the party of Big Oil.

“This isn’t from some backbencher. Republicans want to put Congressman Barton in charge of the entire Energy and Commerce committee!” DCCC Executive Director Jon Vogel wrote.

“It’s clear that Republicans are counting on their corporate special interests like Big Oil to fuel them to what they hope will be a record breaking fundraising quarter — but this is a disgusting new low. Don’t let Big Oil’s backers claim the momentum.”

This appears to be a multifaceted effort. In addition to yesterday’s email appeal, the DCCC is running new Facebook ads, and issuing statements to targeted congressional districts demanding that GOP candidates disavow Barton’s apology to the foreign oil giant.

What’s more, overnight, the DNC’s Organizing for America sent out a letter, over David Plouffe’s signature, about Barton and other Republicans who are siding with BP. “Let’s be clear,” Plouffe said. “This [$20 billion] fund is a major victory for the people of the Gulf. It’s a key step toward making them whole again. BP has a responsibility to those whose lives and livelihoods have been devastated by the disaster. And BP oil executives don’t deserve an apology — the people of the Gulf do.” The message included a box with text that read: “We support holding BP accountable and we won’t apologize for doing so.”

But there’s a related question that’s also worth considering: will Barton capitalize over this, too?

Remember, last year, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) was initially humiliated for heckling President Obama during a speech before a joint session of Congress. The GOP’s right-wing base, however, decided that they loved Wilson’s outburst, made him a far-right hero, and contributed generously to his re-election.

Might Barton get a similar bump from the nutty wing of the Republican Party? It may sound ridiculous, but it’s nevertheless a distinct possibility. Michael Roston noted, “[G]et ready for far right conservatives to rally to Barton’s defense, and the congressman to walk away from his act of insensitivity with his conscience light and his campaign war chest heavier.”

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.