06.20.2014 0

McCarthy’s victory a testimony to his hard work not ideology

kevin_mccarthy2By Rick Manning

House Leadership races are difficult to pin down.  Nothing makes this point more clearly than the elevation of Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy to Eric Cantor’s vacated House Majority Leader slot.

Those who want to make this internal election into an establishment versus tea party battle have a hard time explaining away Rep. Tom Graves’ nomination of McCarthy in the race.  You see, Graves is the House’s Ted Cruz who led and won the fight to defund Obamacare amongst his congressional colleagues.  While maintaining a relatively low national profile, Tom Graves is a conservative go to guy, yet he supported McCarthy.

Not being privy to Graves’ speech or rationale, one thing about this leadership election is clear – House conservatives decided that they didn’t want to rock the boat four months before the General Election, and are holding their water until internal Leadership elections occur in December with a new crop of Members.

In fact defeating McCarthy may have been impossible no matter who ran because of the new Leader’s two major advantages over any potential opponent in this quickie election.

McCarthy had a group of Members already in place due to his position as Whip, who were able to immediately work their assigned Republican member offices on his behalf before any other potential challenger likely even had learned the news of Cantor’s stepping down.  This Whip team approach is the exact tactic used by then Whip Tom Delay to push his deputy Dennis Hastert into the Speaker’s office more than a decade ago.  No challenger had any hope of matching this fast strike operation.

But the other marked advantage that McCarthy enjoyed is that he and his team have been showing up in his fellow Republican Member districts for at least four years helping them raise money and helping them with political tactics.

And it is this type of political effort that anyone who hopes to challenge for a leadership post in December must match between now and November.

Weekends and evenings need to be devoted to an almost slavish pursuit of building the Republican majority in the House, and quaint notions of spending time with family put aside. Jumping in on behalf of Republicans in tough races through helping them break through the D.C. money logjam, and getting them noticed by not only the NRCC but also prioritized by conservative groups has to be job one.

While this process may seem callous it actually serves all Republican members well.  As a result, those in Leadership know the political situations of each Republican member, and can better help them meet their in-district political needs due to this exposure, and the Republican members can push the leadership buttons to help accomplish their objectives.

Running for House leadership is hard work, and cannot be achieved as a last minute whim.  This is the true lesson of Kevin McCarthy’s rise to the Majority Leader slot.  McCarthy, his staff and those members who are in his inner circle have sacrificed and planned over time to win the job.  Time will tell if any conservative House member is willing to do the same and effectively challenge for Leadership in December.

The author is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government and served for a short time as a senior leadership staffer for Rep. J.C. Watts, Jr.

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