Things are moving fast. No sooner does Republican Study Group Chair, Rep. Mike Pence, appear to weaken as a leadership candidate than Rep. John Boehner begins to chip away at the RSC.
This morning, Rep. Gresham Barrett (SC), a member of the group, and vice chair of the GOP class of 2004, endorsed Boehner for leader. This is significant only in that the RSC is viewed as a leading conservative base in the House.
The more moderate wing of the Republican caucus, most visibly represented by the "Tuesday Group" intends to hold interviews with both Boehner and Blunt and whomever else might choose to run for the slot at the end of the month.
Interesting watching the "dog chasing its own tail" on other blog sites as the MSM has created the buzz and excitement of an impending election that was a foregone conclusion a month ago to readers of sites like AmSpec and RedState.
For us, the only question was the timing and how late into January the Republican caucus and its leadership felt they could hold on.
It may be that Rep. Roy Blunt has built up enough goodwill in the past two months to have the "interim" removed from his leadership title. But as we have pointed out before, one reason Blunt's star was tarnished to begin with was damage inflicted by then-Leader Tom DeLay. There has been no reconciliation. DeLay is still influential in the caucus and will do everything he can to ensure Blunt is not given what DeLay feels his colleague should not have to begin with.
You read it here first before the Christmas Recess that the House GOP was looking to cut the cord on Suspended in Animation Leader Tom DeLay. It was the cocktail chatter at the St. Michael's Island retreat after Thanksgiving, and it continued throughout the December legislative session.
Rep. John Boehner has been putting himself in position to challenge for the leadership post for more than a year. Sources say that since January 2005, he has been holding weekly strategy sessions with a kitchen cabinet of advisers in Washington to discuss options, map out fundraising trips and commitments that best put him position for a run at leadership. "If we get a vote, we're ready to go," says one of the advisers. "We've been waiting for this for a while."
Less than 2 weeks ago, Tom DeLay said there was no more room for cuts in the budget. This brought howls from the right - particularly on talk radio. Today, faced with a partisan investigation that led to an incredibly weak grand jury indictment, DeLay may be wishing he had held his tongue on the inability to make further budget cuts. He'll need the conservative base to rally to him. Telling the base there's no more room for cuts may keep some mum.
Having lived through a little turmoil in the House (Gingrich/Livingston1998), I would say DeLay's decision to step down pending the outcome of the investigation has the scent of political death about it. DeLay, more than most, deserves a vigorous defense from the right. But that's just not the way the Republican party works -- just ask Trent Lott. Internal power struggles will take some toll on DeLay's ability to maintain enough loyalty in the caucus for a return to the Leader's post when he beats the rap.