Drama: Chip Roy may challenge Elise Stefanik for Cheney's vacant leadership seat

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky File

Many righties on social media this afternoon are suddenly excited about this news, for reasons I don’t understand. Roy has no chance. If he challenges Stefanik, it’ll be tantamount to a stunt.

As it usually is when the Freedom Caucus makes a stand on something.

McCarthy and Scalise sought out Stefanik to run for Cheney’s seat in part because they concluded they need a woman in the role. “If Chip Roy runs & wins, then the Republican woman who staked her reputation on electing Republican women will have helped drive out the only woman in Republican leadership to replace her with a man,” said one lefty about Stefanik’s history of supporting women candidates. McCarthy doesn’t want to be saddled with that narrative. And he certainly doesn’t want any more storylines about him having lost control of the caucus, which is what he’d get if Roy upset his handpicked Cheney replacement.

So this is going nowhere, especially now that Trump himself has endorsed Stefanik. I’ll be surprised if Roy even runs, although maybe the Freedom Caucus will produce some token opposition for the famously centrist Stefanik.

Two sources close to Roy told the Daily Caller that he is considering a run against Stefanik after Cheney was removed from her leadership position by a voice vote Wednesday. Behind closed doors, Republicans voted Cheney out as the third-ranking House Republican.

“While not ruling anything out, Congressman Roy has never sought a position in conference leadership. His focus is on serving Texas’ 21st Congressional district … But if the position must be filled, then this must be a contested race — not a coronation,” Roy’s office told the Daily Caller when asked about a possible run.

“I don’t believe there should be a coronation, I think we should have a debate,” Roy told CNN. Let me preview the debate for you:

“Elise Stefanik is a RINO, far too moderate on an array of issues to effectively represent the balance of opinion in this conservative-dominated caucus.”
“Right, but Trump supports her.”

Debate over. Roy has to make up his mind before tomorrow night’s candidate forum, and even if jumps in, he’s a solid week behind Stefanik in whipping votes. (Although the memo he sent around to colleagues yesterday listing all of her squishy positions on issues was an efficient bit of pre-campaigning.) What this is really about, I take it, is the Freedom Caucus wanting a conservative protest candidate to support as an alternative to Stefanik so that they can say afterward that they didn’t vote for a moderate. Roy or some other member of that caucus will jump in to fill that niche, and the final vote will be a lopsided Stefanik victory with some but not all of the FC opting for her challenger. (Jim Jordan is backing Stefanik, for instance.) Everyone wins — McCarthy gets his pick, Stefanik gets the job, and the Freedom Caucus gets to claim “purity.”

The interesting wrinkle with Roy is that, although his conservative cred is unimpeachable, he distinguished himself earlier this year by opposing the efforts in the House to stop the certification of Biden’s victory. Not only was he in a minority of the caucus in doing that but he went so far as to challenge the results in House races won by his Republican colleagues from swing states, reasoning that if the presidential results from those states were supposedly tainted by fraud, the results from House races downballot must be questionable too. Stefanik is the opposite of that. Her conservative cred is paper thin but she’s gone all-in on casting doubt on the election, reiterating as recently as this morning that she stands by her since-debunked claim in early January about 140,000 votes in Fulton County, Georgia, possibly having come from ineligible voters.

Does the caucus want a squish who tried to overturn the election or a true conservative who opposed doing so? The answer is that the caucus wants what Trump wants. And, given that choice, we know what Trump wants. So Roy is going nowhere.