Election blowout may cost House Republican leaders
WASHINGTON – Who will be blamed if Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives get crushed in Tuesday’s election?
That’s a question being asked amid Republican fears that they may lose as many as 30 seats. That would be on top of the 30 they dropped in the 2006 election that saw Democrats win control of the House, which they now hold, 235-199.
If House Republicans have another bad night, their leaders could be in jeopardy of being replaced — just like the manager of the baseball team who’s bounced after a bad season or two.
A former leadership aide said another big loss would trigger “spontaneous combustion from the House Republican” members, signaling “a need for change.”
The top dog, John Boehner of Ohio, is preparing to run for another two-year term as minority leader, according to aides. So far, nobody appears to be emerging as a viable challenger. But that could change after the election as the damage is surveyed.
Boehner won high marks this summer when he crafted an election-year message that resonated with voters: the call for expanded oil drilling that morphed into “drill, baby, drill” at the Republican presidential nominating convention.
But by mid-September, the Wall Street bailout coupled with falling gasoline prices virtually wiped out Republican advances.
There’s speculation House Republican Whip Roy Blunt, the party’s second in commmand, could play the “fall guy” and step aside, Republican aides say.
“He’s held the whip (job) for two terms …. there’s blood in the water,” the ex-House aide said, adding the six-term Missouri congressman has mulled leaving leadership or even Congress. A Blunt spokeswoman said that for now, Republicans are focused on congressional elections, not leadership races.
Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the chief deputy whip, is jockeying to move up a notch, Republican aides say.
And then there’s Rep. Adam Putnam, the 34-year-old Floridian who holds the number-three post in House Republican leadership. Aides speculate he wants to keep the job, with Boehner’s backing. But some also wonder if he’ll get blamed for Republicans lacking a clear agenda. There’s also hard feelings over how he handled the Wall Street bailout.
Boehner, Blunt and Putnam may all be at risk if Election Day turns into a Republican nightmare. But at this point, it’s a bit of a mystery what will happen.
“They may all get wiped out or just one or two of them,” a leadership aide said. “It’s hard to say.”
- Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Boehner, Blunt and Putnam talk to reporters earlier this month)