“We’ve done just about everything we can to create an environment that would allow Boehner and Blunt to work and co-exist,” says a Republican House member. “Blunt knows we view him as important to the team, but if he isn’t committed to this leader and his vision for reform, then we have to surround that leader with people who are committed.”
The talk last week was of Shadegg being elevated to a position akin to Deputy Leader, a post the House Republican Conference does not currently list. One school of thought has the new post serving not only as a buffer between Boehner and Blunt, but also as a possible slot that would make Blunt’s position such that he’d probably resign the post of Whip.
“If Boehner actually invested the position with stated duties, like overseeing the Whip’s operation, then it’s doubtful Blunt would stand by and take it,” says a GOP staffer who has worked previously in leadership offices. “A lot of the tension that we’re hearing about is about ego, and Blunt’s can’t take much more of a pounding, unless he’s a glutton for punishment.”
It didn’t have to be this way, though it was probably inevitable. In the fight to permanently replace Rep. Tom DeLay, Boehner and Blunt campaigned in widely divergent manners. Boehner kept a comparatively low profile, and his surrogates did little trashing of Blunt to fellow members or the media. They assumed that Blunt’s high-profile pursuit of the post, his constant release of endorsements during the first week of campaigning, and the media attention it garnered would force reporters to take a harder look at Blunt than at the competition. That strategy paid off.
Matching that with the addition of Shadegg to the equation, Boehner simply outflanked the man who claimed to be only second to DeLay in whipping votes in the Conference.
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