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Replacing the Congressional GOP’s Leadership

Dan McCarthy makes many good points in his post [1] on the possibilities for reforming the right under Romney, but I want to challenge him on something. Dan writes:

The congressional leadership is as much of a problem as the GOP’s taste in presidential nominees, and whatever helps Boehner, McConnell, Blunt, and Cantor only harms the prospects for reforming conservatism. But if Romney is president, the GOP stands to lose ground in 2014 and the Bush-era congressional leadership might just get cleaned out. Certainly its exit is likely to be hastened in contrast to the other scenario.

It is true that re-election for Obama would most likely mean another Republican midterm victory in 2014. That is normally what happens in the sixth-year midterm election, and it is unlikely that there will be a repeat of 1998 when the presidential party gained seats in the House. So they do stand to benefit in two years’ time if Obama wins. The problem is that even after a Romney victory there is almost no 2014 midterm outcome, short of a major landslide defeat for the GOP, that would drive the current leadership out. If they were going to be replaced, the time to do it should have been after 2006 or 2008, but that didn’t happen.

Why was the Bush-era Congressional leadership still in place after those losses? Unfortunately, Boehner and McConnell have held on to their leadership positions because most House and Senate Republicans still seem to have confidence in them. Despite their role presiding over two of the biggest Republican defeats in the last twenty years, there has been at most token opposition to their leadership when they have been in the minority. Following the 2010 midterm elections, Boehner is secure.

If Obama wins, Boehner’s majority will likely be reduced, and the attempt to gain control of the Senate appears to have failed regardless of the outcome of the presidential election. After a third defeat in four cycles, that should provide Congressional Republicans with as much incentive to change leadership as they are ever going to have. A Romney win would mask the failure to hold or expand Republican numbers in Congress and allow the current leaders to become even more entrenched. Republicans will be most frustrated and disappointed following an Obama victory, and that would be the time to direct some of that frustration against the current Republican leadership in Congress. That won’t happen following a Romney victory.

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10 Comments To "Replacing the Congressional GOP’s Leadership"

#1 Comment By Matt On October 31, 2012 @ 11:38 am

I can’t speak to the others, but speaking as a Kentuckian, McConnell will be in there forever. He’s a horrible senator, but he’s a very important Kentuckian, the only important Kentuckian in government, and to most Kentuckians that takes primacy over any disagreement on principle. Replacing him would mean that the replacement would be much less influential. As depressing as it is, McConnell will die or retire in office no matter who is elected president.

#2 Comment By Carl Wicklander On October 31, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

Matt’s right. McConnell’s secured so much pork for the state that he’ll be there for life. If the Democrats couldn’t beat him in 2008 they never will.

I haven’t lived in Kentucky in almost four years, but from my vantage point, Rand Paul’s primary victory in 2010 is the closest anyone’s ever come to beating McConnell.

#3 Comment By Barry On October 31, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

All this is is a variations on concern trolling, trying to persuade people ‘just let us win, because then, you see – we’ll lose! Trust me!’.

All of which is combined with sheer unadulterated lying, pretending that things will inevitably happen which also should have, but didn’t, under the Bush administration.

#4 Comment By William Burns On October 31, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

If Obama wins, 2014 is unlikely to be a repeat of 1998 unless the Republicans are stupid enough to impeach Obama, so 50-50 chance.

#5 Comment By IanH On October 31, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

“All this is is a variations on concern trolling, trying to persuade people ‘just let us win, because then, you see – we’ll lose! Trust me!’.

All of which is combined with sheer unadulterated lying, pretending that things will inevitably happen which also should have, but didn’t, under the Bush administration.”

What are you even talking about?

#6 Comment By Derek Benjamin On October 31, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

At what point does TAC’s position vis-a-vis the GOP become untenable. I mean this blog post is patently concern trolling unless for good or ill TAC’s default party to support is the GOP. Otherwise, from a “conservative” perspective far more energy should be directed at forcing the democrats to dislodge Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. But as is apparent from the Presidential election picks the GOP is in no way shape or form the default party of the TAC. As such, this is what IanH claims it is concern trolling pure and simple.

#7 Comment By Daniel Larison On October 31, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

Why would the GOP be the default party of most or all of our contributors? The GOP as it exists represents much of what we consider to be wrong with the right today. How could that be our “default” preference? When has it ever been this way? Incidentally, I don’t think Ian was the one saying these things.

#8 Comment By Lev On October 31, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

I’m no Republican and certainly no fan of Boehner or McConnell, but probably the argument I’d use if I were those things is that, when your strategy is fundamentally misconceived, you blame the generals who thought it up, not the colonels who had to try to put it into practice. Not a very good argument because these guys are supposed to be independent actors to some degree, and aren’t supposed to just follow orders from a president (or from whatever constellation of party actors calls the shots when the president’s from the other party). And, of course, absolutely nobody in the GOP is blaming the generals that led them to defeat.

It is likely that the GOP will do well in 2014–some of the Senate seats that Democrats won in 2008 are going to be awfully hard to defend. But if the Reinhardt-Rogoff model is right and the economic recovery kicks in 5-10 years after the crisis, those victories will perhaps be greatly minimized.

#9 Comment By JDP On November 1, 2012 @ 3:14 am

I don’t think it’s so much “you must vote for the GOP” as the sense a lot of people have that this magazine’s bar for Republican nominees is impossibly high, and on the flipside, sees silver linings in Obama/Democratic rule that others don’t.

i mean in how many elections can TAC favor voting for (ostensibly) the other side out of a Leninist “worse before it gets better” attitude?

with this particular blogger, my main beefs are a) paranoia about an Iran invasion that is not going to happen, and b) criticizing Paul Ryan for voting party-line on Bush programs, a standard which disqualifies almost every politician ever, no matter how talented/unique. to use a weird example, it’d be like if liberals dissed LBJ for advocating the 1964 Civil Rights Act because he helped water down the 1957 one due to Democratic coalition politics. politicians are politicians, what they’ve done in the past doesn’t make them corrupt-for-life, but this blog just likes to assume the worst

#10 Comment By JDP On November 1, 2012 @ 3:15 am

by the way when i say “disqualifies” i’m not talking about the Bush era specifically obviously, just the party-line impulse, especially for junior members who feel they don’t have as much maneuvering room.