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Boehner: Survivor Star

A run against Boehner would be risky for Cantor, and becoming leader could also make it harder for him to consider running for statewide office in the future. He’s also young enough — 45 — that he can bide his time until Boehner leaves.

In addition to the Cole-Sessions race, the only other sideshow is the challenge to Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.), a longtime Boehner ally, from Rep. Michael Burgess (Texas).

Burgess said he’s picking up support from Members concerned about what appears to be a Boehner-blessed slate.

A lot of Members “legitimately have concerns about buying off on a slate brought to us by the same leadership that, quite frankly, has overseen some serious losses over the last two years,” Burgess said.

But Burgess is rare in his willingness to publicly tweak the Boehner machine, with most only willing to talk as long as their names will not be used.

Although Boehner has clearly focused on the leadership scramble, he also has been looking beyond, signaling a more aggressive stance fighting the Democrats, both in his letter announcing his decision to seek to keep his position and in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

“This election was neither a referendum in favor of the left’s approach to key issues nor a mandate for big government,” Boehner wrote in the Post. “Obama campaigned by masking liberal policies with moderate rhetoric to make his agenda more palatable to voters. Soon he will seek to advance these policies through a Congress that was purchased by liberal special interests such as unions, trial lawyers and radical environmentalists, and he’ll have a fight on his hands when he does so.”

A House GOP leadership aide said the shift in tone shouldn’t be seen as Boehner protecting his right flank in the leadership race, but instead as an understanding that his role will change with Democrats in charge on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“The role of Republican leader is going to be very different without the White House,” a House GOP leadership aide said. “The votes matter less, the voice matters more. ... If Boehner remains as leader, he, [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell [Ky.] and presumably the next RNC chairman will be the voices of Republicans in Washington, D.C.,” the aide said.

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