Maneuvering Begins for House GOP Leaders
By Ben Pershing
Within hours of the polls closing on an Election Day that put them deeper into the minority, House Republicans began plotting for their future and for a slate of potential leadership races later this month. The likely result will be stability in the party's top job but significant changes further down the ladder.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) informed his colleagues in a letter today that he would run to hold his current post, saying that Tuesday "turned out to be every bit as tough for Republicans as we thought it could be" but that a surrender of the party's principles "ain't gonna happen."
"I'm deeply disappointed by the outcome of Tuesday's election," Boehner wrote. "But I'm equally committed to building a lasting majority on the reform principles that define us and inspire our citizens. For this reason, I'm writing today to announce my candidacy for Republican Leader in the 111th Congress."
Despite general unhappiness with the party's electoral performance -- the GOP lost roughly 20 seats -- and a particular disgust on the part of many members with the leadership's handling of the financial rescue package, no obvious challenger has emerged for Boehner's crown. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) may test the waters, but appears unlikely to run, and it's not clear that anyone else could amass the votes to beat Boehner, who remains well-liked on a personal level.
House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), meanwhile, is widely expected by members and GOP aides to step aside from his current post, though he has not publicly indicated that he will do so. He is almost certain to be replaced by his current chief deputy, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is already rounding up votes to secure the job.
"Cantor is going to be the Whip," Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who is close to several leaders, said this morning. "I think he's got that locked up. I think by the end of today he will have the votes."
Cantor, 45, may name another youthful member to serve as his own chief deputy -- Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). McCarthy, 43, had been rumored as a candidate to chair the National Republican Congressional Committee but is now said to be uninterested in running for that job.
Instead, current NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) is running to helm the campaign arm for another term, a surprising twist that may exacerbate tensions within the leadership ranks, as Cole and Boehner have fought frequently over the last two years. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who lost to Cole in the NRCC race last time around, is expected to try again for the job.
One more race is emerging for the position of Republican Conference Chairman, the party's chief communicator. Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.) announced yesterday that he would step down from the job to focus on policy matters. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), the current chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, is already campaigning to succeed Putnam. But he may face a challenge from his predecessor at the RSC: Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.). Hensarling and Pence hail from the same wing of the party, and their battle may lure a third candidate into the race who would try to eke out a win while they divvy up the party's conservatives.
All these races, and perhaps more, are scheduled to be settled when Republicans return to the Capitol for their organizational meetings the week after next. Should be interesting to watch.
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