This is a website devoted to Georgia politics, but all politics is not local. Eric Cantor lost his primary last night in a bid for re-election. The Tea Party is claiming the scalp, despite the fact that they wouldn’t even take his opponent’s phone calls. I guess they don’t want to talk about Lindsey Graham coasting to victory tonight. Erick, writing over at Red State, explains that Cantor’s loss was really about local politics, and that Cantor spent more time focused on leadership than on his constituents. Arguing over the narrative is fine if you want, but that’s not what affects us here. At our home. Georgia Politics.
Cantor’s loss ensures there will be an immediate leadership fight for the number two slot in the House. It will also be setting up an eventual heir apparent to the Speaker’s position. And may speed up the timing. With Whip McCarthy expected to run for one of these spots, the top three positions of House leadership may be in play. Who is first into focus? According to the New York Times, that would be our own Tom Price, or even Tom Graves.
With Mr. Cantor gone from the leadership suites, David Wasserman, an editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, predicted “a free-for-all” when House Republicans assemble after the November elections to pick their new leaders. At the very least, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the No. 3 Republican, will seek to move up to majority leader, but he could also challenge Mr. Boehner.
More broadly, Mr. Cantor’s defeat will embolden conservatives like Representative Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, who has openly complained that the leadership positions are occupied by Democratic or swing-state Republicans. The push will be for “red state” leadership.
Candidates could include Mr. Price, Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, and brash newcomers like Representative Tom Graves of Georgia, Mr. Wasserman said. The message is that the House must be run by more conservative leaders.
It’s clear that there is a sea change going on within Republican ranks of the US House. And with that, the fortunes of many Congressmen have seen their stock rise and fall with the ebbing tides of each faction of conservatism. In early 2013, there was a move to withhold votes from Speaker Boehner, with the rationale that if he didn’t get enough GOP votes on the first ballot, the “conservatives” could force another pick.
During this time, Congressman Price – while voting for Speaker – bucked Boehner’s choice for Conference Chairman against Cathy McMorris Rodgers. While he was unsuccessful, it endeared Price to the rightward edges of the House GOP caucus. Price’s career as a thoughtful “numbers” guy has allowed him to keep his street cred with those firmly entrenched within the establishment corners of the GOP controlled House. He now has the respect of both camps, something that will be valuable to anyone who tries for one of these leadership posts.
Many D.C. insiders credit Boehner’s ability to hold on to power to Cantor, and him being the iron fist behind Boehner’s genuinely friendly and conciliatory nature. With Cantor now out of the picture, the D.C. folks will likely begin to wonder if the Majority Leader’s position is the only one up for election. Adding to the speculation is that many of Boehner’s inner circle: Senators Saxby Chambliss and Tom Coburn as well as Congressmen Tom Latham, Dave Camp, and Mike Rogers are leaving Congress. Boehner may still have the fight in him. Or, he could decide that enough is enough for his powerful but thankless position.
It should be noted that before Tom Price took over GA-6 from now Senator Isakson, the seat was held by none other than Speaker Newt Gingrich. Price, like Gingrich, has looked at his career in the House with a long term plan toward leadership. He’s currently set to move to the powerful House Budget Committee chairmanship, as Paul Ryan moves to Ways and Means.
Now, there is an open path upward, at least to Majority Leader. The person who wins that seat – and the person who is the GOP’s heir apparent to be the next Speaker – will have the daunting task of trying to unite the Tea Party/anti-establishment factions of the GOP with the entrenched establishment members. AND, for bonus points, will have to govern in such a way to maintain a majority for any of it to matter.
Good luck to Tom Price, or anyone else who wishes to receive and wins this position. It’s unusual, to say the least, to have two if not all three of the top leadership slots openly contested when that party is in power. As the old saying goes, “may you be cursed to live in interesting times.”