Kevin McCarthy: Yes, I'm running for Speaker

“Eric Cantor with ten less IQ points” is how Mark Levin described him this weekend, so I’m guessing the great post-Boehner establishment/grassroots reconciliation might not be happening just yet.

Ace asked a good question on Friday. Why should we assume the new House leadership will give conservatives’ interests greater priority long-term when they’re all veterans of Boehner’s team? Short term, McCarthy will extend an olive branch by picking a few fights with Obama, By all accounts, though, he’s further towards the center politically than Boehner is and he represents a district in California that’s 35 percent Hispanic, giving him a greater personal interest than most Republicans in making a deal on immigration sooner rather than later. Start asking now, then, who’ll eventually follow McCarthy and whether that man or woman will be able to forge some sort of rapprochement between the right and center. Because the longer this angst persists, where conservatives come to understand that their “Boehner problem” isn’t a problem specific to John Boehner at all, the more likely it is that you’ll see sharply lower GOP turnout in the midterms than we’re used to and maybe even a little oxygen for a third party.

House majority leader Kevin McCarthy officially announced his campaign for speaker of the House. In a letter sent to his fellow Republican congressmen, McCarthy promised that if elected he would lead a House of Representatives that would “have the courage to lead the fight for our conservative principles and make our case to the American people” as well as having “the wisdom to listen to our constituents and each other so that we always move forward together.”

“You all know me,” McCarthy wrote. “We’ve spent late nights on the House Floor together. I’ve visited your districts and met your families and constituents. More importantly, I have gotten to know your ideas, your goals, and your vision for our conference and our country.”…

Among the Republicans joining McCarthy in the race for speaker is Florida congressman Daniel Webster. And Peter Roskam may be considering a run—the Illinois Republican has been leading a small movement of his colleagues to force a “closed meeting” of the conference to determine the party’s future. On top of that, McCarthy is viewed suspiciously among some conservatives by virtue of his position in the GOP leadership.

Even more than Roskam or Webster, what House conservatives want right now is for the new leadership elections to proceed slowly, to give them time to organize.

A speedy speaker’s race would favor McCarthy, who has the institutional advantages of being the second-most powerful man in the conference and was all-but-endorsed by Boehner on Friday. But the conservative insurgents who precipitated Boehner’s resignation want to use the upcoming race to ensure that the next round of GOP leaders is more aggressive in tactical fights with President Obama and the Republican Senate, which often sees House-passed legislation fail due to Democratic filibusters.

“The most important point in the leadership race going forward is that it go slow,” House Freedom Caucus (HFC) chairman Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) tells National Review. “There is no rush on this. We need to make sure that we’re going to change things in Washington so that we can get done what we told the voters we were going to do, and there is no reason to rush into that.”

That tracks with the desires of Republicans who hope to make the leap into a leadership position. Illinois representative Peter Roskam, who is regarded as a potential dark-horse challenger to McCarthy, took a step toward ensuring a slow process on Saturday, when he circulated a letter calling for a special conference meeting to discuss the leadership races.

Gonna be hard to beat McCarthy even with extra time. Not only is he the current majority leader, he was the NRCC’s head of recruitment in 2010, the year the big red wave swept the House back into GOP hands with an enormous freshman class. Dozens of members of the caucus owe McCarthy favors and dozens more owe him their seats. It would take an anti-establishment moment even more ferocious than Trumpmania, I think, to scare them into tossing McCarthy aside in favor of a conservative like Jim Jordan or Jeb Hensarling.

Which brings us to an important question that’s being overlooked in the chaos of Boehner’s resignation: Why do House conservatives need extra time to organize? Why don’t they already have their own candidate lined up? Rumors that Boehner might resign or be ousted have been circulating for at least 18 months now. Boehner himself acknowledged last week that he was prepared to quit last year before Cantor was upset in his primary. The threat from Mark Meadows and his supporters to depose Boehner this fall if he caved on defunding Planned Parenthood and the debt ceiling has been percolating for months. And yet, somehow, House conservatives seem to have been caught off-guard. Jeb Hensarling, whose name always comes up when conservatives start talking about their wish list for leadership, has already said he won’t run. Jim Jordan said repeatedly earlier this year that he doesn’t want to be Speaker. “What we need is real leadership,” conservatives liked to say about Boehner. Okay, here’s our big opportunity. Where is it?

Incidentally, if Boehner wants to help protect McCarthy as a somewhat durable successor, the best thing he could do for him before he leaves is make some sort of deal with Obama that takes care of Planned Parenthood funding in the near term. According to two separate polls today, majorities of the public oppose cutting off funding for the group. Quinnipiac finds 52 percent against it versus 41 percent who support the idea. (When asked if they’d support a shutdown aimed at defunding PP, those numbers switch to 69/23.) And the WSJ/NBC finds that 61 percent either strongly or somewhat oppose cutting off funding. Blame the media for not pushing the sting videos in front of voters, but the numbers are what they are right now.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023