House Republicans: Who Will Replace DeLay?
Texas Rep. Tom DeLay's (R) decision Saturday to permanently step aside as House majority leader sets up at least one high-profile race that could change the face of the chamber's Republican leadership.
The majority leader contest at the moment is a two-way race, according to conversations with several knowledgeable Republicans in the the wake of the DeLay announcement. The Fix's early handicapping of the race is below. Remember, House Republicans haven't had contested leadership elections since 1998, making accurate predictions difficult.
* Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.): The acting majority leader and elected majority whip, Blunt has been positioning himself for a permanent promotion since DeLay temporarily stepped down last year. Blunt is likely to have the support of many of the more junior House Republicans as Blunt has proved helpful to them on tough votes and seeded their campaigns from his various fundraising arms. Blunt's relationships with some of the GOP's old bulls -- including the committee chairmen -- is tenuous at best.
* Rep. John Boehner (Ohio): Boehner has been waiting for this moment ever since he was ousted as GOP Conference Chairman in the wake of the 1998 elections. Boehner lost that leadership race to former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts (R). After DeLay's announcement today, Boehner wasted little time in activating his organization. He begins with a strong base in the Ohio delegation and is likely to enjoy the support of Republican moderates who had grown increasingly dissatisfied with DeLay.
Three other names are actively mentioned for the majority leader position: Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), Mike Pence (Ind.) and John Shadegg (Ariz.). Should Lewis run, he would likely rely on his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee as well as the large California delegation as his twin bases of support. Both Pence and Shadegg would seek to unify conservatives behind their bids.
If Blunt wins the majority leader post, there will be a race to fill his vacated majority whip slot. At the moment that contest also appears to be a two-way race.
* Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.): Cantor was plucked from near obscurity in late 2002 (just two years after he won the Richmond-area 7th district) by Blunt when the Missourian named him chief deputy whip. Cantor would seem to start the whip race with an edge, but his hopes could be complicated by what happens in the majority leader's race. If Blunt wins the leader contest, it seems unlikely that the GOP Conference would vote to elevate Cantor, a move that would essentially affirm the status quo.
* Rep. Mike Rogers (Mich.): Rogers is the freshest face among the four Republicans seeking the top leadership posts. Elected in a fiercely competitive election in 2000, Rogers has a unique background that could serve him well among a Republican Conference reeling by the plea agreement of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff earlier this week. Rogers is a former FBI agent who spent much of his time with the bureau investigating public corruption cases. Rogers was seen as a likely candidate for the National Republican Congressional Committee chairmanship next cycle but unexpectedly backed away.
Rep. Zach Wamp (Tenn.) plans to run for the whip post but is not seen as a major factor. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (Kans.) is also mentioned.
January 7, 2006; 7:45 PM ET
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