House GOP: Week 1 of the Leadership Races
Has it only been six days since Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) announced that he would permanently step down as House majority leader? It seems like ages ago.
After hundreds of e-mails, dozens of phone calls and a few carefully dropped opposition research documents, The Fix offers up a summary of where things stand at the end of the week one of the House leadership scramble.
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.): The Missourian started the race as the favorite and has done nothing over the past week to forfeit that spot. Blunt has public commitments from 78 of his GOP colleagues, and he claims to have private commitments numbering more than 100. The truth is probably somewhere in between, and, if so, he has a lead over Boehner and Shadegg. One other important point: Blunt began the race with a major advantage given the fact that he had a full legislative whip team in place that could easily be ported over to a leadership contest.
Rep. John Boehner (Ohio): Boehner began the week on a strong note with the release of a 37-page mission statement documenting his views on how to return the party to its most basic principles. Boehner's public commitments number 40, though his allies claim he has more than 90 votes committed. The Shadegg candidacy should benefit Boehner, perhaps robbing Blunt of enough conservatives to force a second ballot. (If no candidate receives a simple majority of the GOP Conference on the first ballot, the lowest vote-getter is dropped and another round of balloting is held.)
Rep. John Shadegg (Arizona): For Shadegg to have a real chance at victory, he needs either Blunt or Boehner to stumble badly in the weeks before the Feb. 2 vote. That is not to say, however, that Shadegg isn't a major factor. As mentioned above, he makes a first-ballot win by Blunt a long shot, and he also makes it more difficult for Blunt to remain as majority whip even as he runs for leader -- in his announcement statement released this morning, Shadegg said he was giving up his Republican Policy Committee Chairmanship -- the fifth ranking leadership spot -- because "I personally believe it is not appropriate to try to retain one position in elected leadership while running for another." Ouch!
Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.): Cantor is the strong favorite to claim the post if Blunt is elected majority leader. Although his assertion about having better than 140 Members committed seems a bit high, Cantor is well-liked in the conference and has done his homework in the past week to ensure he is the frontrunner. If Blunt loses the majority leader race and decides he wants to remain as whip, Cantor faces a major decision. Does he challenge the man who lifted him from obscurity or back down and wait for another day?
Rep. Mike Rogers (Mich.): Seeking to cement his image as the true reform choice in the leadership elections, Rogers released a detailed lobbying reform proposal this week aimed at eliminating a repeat of the ongoing scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff's influence-peddling in the halls of Congress. A former FBI agent, Rogers is running on his resume and squeaky-clean image, but it is not clear yet whether he has made any significant inroads into Cantor's support.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt (Kans.): Tiahrt took the offensive Friday, brandishing a calculator to take issue with Cantor's vote count. "Eric Cantor says he has 150 votes, which would leave 82 Members uncommitted," said Tiahrt. "I have personally spoken to more than two-thirds of the 232 members in the conference, and well over half of them are firmly undecided." If Tiahrt continues his attacks on Cantor it could benefit Rogers, who is able to remain above the fray while also benefiting from someone taking shots at the frontrunner.
Rep. Zach Wamp (Tenn.): Wamp has yet to make any real footprint in the race and is not expected to be a major player.
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