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House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) made clear at the Conservative Political Action Conference that he hopes to upgrade his title to Speaker if Republicans reclaim the House in 2010.
And at this point, few in the Republican Conference think anyone will stand in his way.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you help elect a Republican Congress this November, and Im fortunate enough to be elected Speaker of the House, I pledge to you right here and now: Were going to run the House differently, Boehner promised attendees at the annual CPAC.
Republican Members interviewed last week said that should the GOP win the 40 House seats necessary to wrest the majority from Democratic control, Boehner would not have to mount much of a campaign for Speaker, because he will have proven his ability to lead.
I would say he will earn the Speakership, and I dont mean that in a negative way, Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.) said. I mean, our Conference would realize he really earned this because of his work, because of his leadership, because of his vision.
Those close to Boehner say he hasnt yet launched a campaign for Speaker, despite making public his pledge to be a much different House leader than Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Hes certainly not running for Speaker, Rep. Patrick Tiberi (Ohio) said. I think most Members would agree that hes worked tirelessly on the policy and political side as our leader to put us in the best position possible.
Boehner confidant Rep. Steven LaTourette (Ohio) conceded that someone could mount a challenge but predicted it would be nominal at best.
Oh, who knows, theres always a chance, he said. He had a challenge last time, but it wasnt serious.
LaTourette said Boehners role in leading the party out of the political wilderness after three election cycles would make him the prohibitive favorite for the job.
I would be hard-pressed to believe if anybody but Boehner would be the Speaker, he said.
Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), arguably the only Member with the fundraising and leadership credentials to challenge Boehner, said he agreed that his Ohio colleague was the obvious choice.
We are all fighting on the same team, Cantor said.
And while sometimes the lure of power could change a politicians ambitions as it did when former Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) mounted an unexpected challenge to then-Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in 2006 one Republican strategist said Cantor would not succumb to that temptation.
Thats not Cantors style, the strategist said. Hell earn the job. Hes not going to try to take it from someone else.
The strategist added that Boehners team had done an excellent job making the case for a future bid for Speaker.
Theres no chink in Boehners armor, the strategist said.
Since he defeated Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.) in 2006 in the race to replace former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas), Boehner has moved steadily to protect his position in leadership.
He has helped his allies become ranking members through his influence in the Republican Steering Committee and has brought former rivals, such as Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), into the leadership circle.