WASHINGTON (CBS) -- Politicians are rarely shy about appearing at photo-ops. But once a year, lawmakers in Washington turn it into a real competition. "Squatters" at the state of the union can pay a price for a moment of fame.
As President Obama worked his way down the aisle of the House chamber last night he was mobbed by members of Congress affectionately known as "aisle hogs."
New York Democrat Eliot Engel has arrived up to 12 hours early to claim his aisle seat 24 years in a row, through four Presidents. He says, "I don't think about what I'm going to say. I just say what comes to mind."
But it's not really about what they say. No, it's like so much in politics, it's all about the picture. Engel says, "My constituents will come up to me six months from now and say 'I saw you on TV.'"
Georgia Democrat Sanford Bishop has spent hours staking out an aisle seat for more than two decades. He says, "Your constituents seem to take pride in the fact that they can see their representative interacting with the Commander in Chief."
And spending so many hours holding the seat, he says, is far from a waste of time. But being an aisle hog doesn't work out for everyone. Last year Ohio Republican Jean Schmidt gave President Obama a peck on the cheek. Not a good idea; her Republican primary opponent turned "the kiss" into a radio ad. She lost the primary.
But most members along this gauntlet say it's a political plus even if it can get a little rough. Engel says, "People are trying to elbow me aside but I pretty much stand my ground."
It's a small price to pay for a few seconds in the spotlight with the most powerful man in the world.