Ryan endorses Hensarling over Bachmann for leadership post

It didn’t take long for Rep. Michele Bachmann’s decision to run for Conference Chair in the House Republican caucus to get a reaction from her colleagues.  Caucus veterans started lining up behind Bachmann’s opponent for the position, Jeb Hensarling of Texas.  Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, who is well-regarded by the fiscal conservatives active in the Tea Party movement, endorsed Hensarling in a letter to current House Republicans:

House Republicans Thursday reacted strongly against Rep. Michele Bachmann’s decision to run for a top leadership post in the new majority, looking to nip in the bud any chance that she might attract support from the substantially large group of incoming freshman lawmakers.

The trick for Republicans is to keep Bachmann – the Minnesota Republican viewed by many in leadership as an unserious and unhelpful spokesman for the party – away from an elevated platform that many in the party feel would hinder or harm the GOP, without being viewed as not listening to the Tea Party movement, which supplied much of the energy that gave them a 61-seat pickup and control of the House. …

Top House Republicans from Eric Cantor to Paul Ryan are firmly behind Hensarling, arguing that he is a solid conservative who will provide the very “constitutional conservatism” that Bachmann says she represents.

But Hensarling is far less well known beyond Washington and his home district of the southeast Dallas suburbs, so there is potential for average grassroots conservatives who know of Bachmann but not Hensarling to interpret the party’s support for the latter as a slight of the Tea Party.

To that question, it may be one missing endorsement that could make the case for Hensarling:

Palin, in an e-mail to The Daly Caller, declined to endorse Bachmann, even though she has been an outspoken advocate on the congresswoman’s behalf and accused Politico of sexism Thursday for using a picture of Bachmann having makeup applied to her face.

“I’m taking a position on who gets to sit in the big boy highchair this morning for breakfast… Trig or Tripp?” Palin said, referring to her son and grandson, respectively. “Leadership in the US Congress this morning? Nah … not ’till after the Cheerios,” Palin said.

Dick Armey, chair of Freedom Works, which did a lot of ground work in organizing for the Tea Party, didn’t issue an endorsement but did remind people that Hensarling has solid conservative credentials.  He voted against TARP in 2008, one of the few to buck his own party and President to do so, as well as the GOP nominee in the presidential election that took place just a few weeks later.  Hensarling has also been at the forefront of fiscal-conservative policy formation over the past few years as a former Republican Study Committee chair, and has earned loyalty for his fundraising (as has Bachmann).

Either one would give fiscal conservatives a strong voice in leadership.  Hensarling, though, did not have the same level of public commitment to the Tea Party movement as did Bachmann, who spent considerable time helping people across the country to get organized and enthusiastic about the midterm elections.  On the other hand, one could argue that Bachmann may fill a better role as an outside check on GOP leadership, in a role perhaps more analogous to the Tea Party itself.

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