To some extent, this is predictable, and would normally happen on the down-low. If GOP drape-measuring in advance of the expected midterm victory has gotten to the point where people are beginning to notice it, it’s time to call a reality check and refocus on the priorities. But that is a big if, as the Politico report seems very speculative rather than fact-based:
The growing belief that Republicans could win control of the House has set off a frenzy of behind-the-scenes jockeying for top leadership jobs — and created new tensions for those currently holding them.
At the top, Minority Leader John Boehner is a slam-dunk to become speaker if Republicans do prevail. But many of the Ohio Republican’s allies are nervously eyeing Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the No. 2 leader, believing he is positioning himself to run the party if it falls short in November.
Sources close to Cantor flatly declare he will not run against Boehner under any circumstances, in either the majority or the minority, saying his only focus is on getting the GOP back in power.
But the Boehner-Cantor dynamic dominates talk in GOP circles, on both Capitol Hill and K Street, a fixation heightened by the recent comments by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs that Republicans could win back the House. And while Boehner and Cantor dismiss the speculation about a rivalry as unfounded, it has complicated their relationship in the closing months of the campaign.
It’s not just the Speaker job that will attract competition, either, and Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan offer a glimpse of the contest:
The one almost-certain race in the event of a Republican victory — and one that could help shape the GOP for the future — is for majority whip, the old power center of former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a rising star in the conference, is expected to angle for the job, yet Rep. Pete Sessions, the Texan who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, could use his newfound power to make a run for whip. Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers is also a potential candidate, and GOP insiders say any number of conservatives may try to jump into the party’s leadership.
Notice the way the report reads: the whip race “is expected” to include McCarthy, Rogers, and Sessions. Boehner’s allies “believe … Cantor is positioning himself” for the top job. Compare that to the lead paragraph, where Bresnahan and Sherman allege that the expectation of victory “has set off a frenzy of behind-the-scenes jockeying” for the top two positions, along with the headline (probably not written by Sherman and Bresnahan) that “palace intrigue intensifies” for the GOP.
Really? Nothing in the specific reporting shows that anything has happened yet outside of the imagination of the reporters. These certainly could be the fights that erupt after the November midterms, but nothing that Sherman or Bresnahan report says that they actually have begun. The closest they get is this:
Publicly, Boehner and Cantor are civil to each other and appear to have forged a decent partnership, presenting a unified front as House Republicans look to take back control of the chamber. In a recent interview with POLITICO, Boehner praised Cantor’s work ethic and performance as his top lieutenant, saying the two “have a good working relationship.”
Privately, though, their relationship is described as often tense and strained, with both men — and their staffs — warily watching the other as the midterm elections loom. That kind of tension can have an impact on the entire Republican Conference.
For the moment, it appears that Politico has oversold the drape-measuring activity within the GOP, both in its headline and in the lead. Without that, this would be a decent analysis of the potential infighting to come if the Republicans win the midterms and take back the House (and perhaps even more so if they don’t). At least thus far, the real takeaway seems to be that the GOP leadership is staying focused on the tasks at hand now, and leaving the post-midterm leadership fights for after the election.