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Replacing the Congressional GOP’s Leadership

Dan McCarthy makes many good points in his post 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.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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