Boehner vs. Blunt: Round 1 of GOP Leadership Race
The last 48 hours have been this political junkie's dream, as both Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt and Ohio Rep. John Boehner have been working non-stop to gain the advantage in the race to become the next House majority leader.
Many of the key developments in leadership elections go on behind the scenes (an example: Speaker Dennis Hastert and GOP Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce will hold a members-only conference call at 5:30 p.m. ET tonight to discuss the majority leader race), but there are several public developments set for today to keep an eye on.
First, prominent conservative Mike Pence (R-Ind.) has released a letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Fix, taking himself out of the running for the majority leader slot.
"While I will always aspire to be available to serve our country when called, I believe I can do more good for the conservative movement by focusing my energies within the [Republican Study Committee]," Pence wrote.
According to several high-level Republican sources on Capitol Hill, Pence will not endorse Boehner or Blunt any time in the near future. This morning Pence began telling his colleagues that he will remain neutral for now, according to the source. Any endorsement in the race by Pence will come after the RSC's retreat in Baltimore at the end of the month.
Pence's decision not to run heightens the likelihood that the race for leader will be a two-man affair. California Rep. Jerry Lewis and Arizona Rep. John Shadegg are also mentioned as potential candidates.
It doesn't appear that there will be much room for a third major candidate. Blunt and Boehner both claim to have roughly two dozen members on their whip teams. In the coming weeks these supporters will be charged with calling and cajoling uncommitted GOP colleagues. (Much is at stake for the whip team as well. If your candidate wins, you likely find yourself rewarded with a key positions within the leadership team. Lose and you find yourself on an enemy's list for the foreseeable future.)
The other major development to watch for today is the release of a "leadership model" by Boehner, a sort of mission statement about what Boehner would seek to accomplish if elected to the post. In the plan, entitled "John Boehner: For a Majority That Matters," Boehner acknowledges that "we've taken our lumps over the last years" and "morale is low within our Conference and among our strongest supporters." (Get the full text of the Boehner plan here in .pdf format.)
"It's time to bounce back -- not by expecting someone else to bail us out or trying to avoid risk but by planning and working together toward a majority with the confidence and courage to take on big problems and achieve big goals," Boehner adds.
Boehner and Blunt are casting themselves as the candidate of reform, but they're hardly outsiders. Blunt is currently in the GOP leadership, and Boehner served for four years as member of the House GOP's top brass and is currently the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
In conversations with members, Blunt has made clear that one of his first priorities would be to push through a lobbying reform measure in response to the ongoing scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff's relationships with members of Congress.
Boehner, on the other hand, is painting himself as the choice of renewal and reform, arguing to his GOP colleagues that Blunt is the status quo choice while he represents real change.
Check The Fix regularly for the latest developments in the leadership fight.
January 9, 2006; 12:35 PM ET
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