The decision of Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam (left) to stay out of a messy Member-vs.-Member primary in his home state illustrates the cautious style that could help him rise through leadership.
“I think Aaron is teeing things up well for a statewide run someday. I haven’t talked to him about it, but I can see that,” said Shimkus, who joined Schock in backing Kinzinger last month. Meanwhile, Roskam “could become a Whip, sure. I could see him becoming Speaker someday, if he decides he wants it and tries to go for it.”
Of Roskam, Shimkus noted that “you don’t hear anything bad, and you don’t hear a ton great, so he’s probably doing OK.” Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price spun it another way, saying, “He’s not excitable, which is what you want.”
“He understands the machinations of the political process here and the policy process,” the Georgian said. “I think he’s got a very bright future.”
While Roskam consistently wins praise in Washington, D.C., a few Illinois insiders complained that he is less involved back home. Democrats aggressively redrew the Illinois map to favor themselves and have targeted several districts as prime pickup spots in their uphill pursuit of the House majority. Several Illinois sources said Schock and Shimkus are regulars on the fundraising circuit for state legislators and endangered House Members but that Roskam is less of a presence in those circles. Roskam backers note, however, that he helped launch a grass-roots campaign known as the “Illinois Project” for the 2010 cycle that eventually helped the GOP win five House seats including Kinzinger’s.
Kinzinger said there are no residual hard feelings from Roskam choosing to stay out of his contest.
“From my perspective, truly, the primary’s over,” he said.
Roskam could be more helpful to Kinzinger and other freshman lawmakers, as well as endangered incumbents, in other ways. While fundraising and campaign appearances are obvious ways to help colleagues, McCarthy noted that Roskam assists his colleagues as a cautious voice at the leadership table. Unlike the rest of the GOP roster, Roskam hails from a swing district in the Chicago suburbs. In 2008, President Barack Obama won his district, and Roskam himself won a tight battle in 2006 against Democrat Tammy Duckworth, a bright spot for Republicans in an otherwise Democratic year.
“He brings something to the leadership table that I don’t think anyone else has,” McCarthy said.
Colleagues say Roskam’s understated style is reminiscent of another Illinois Republican, former Speaker Dennis Hastert, who unexpectedly rose to the top House office from the same leadership position Roskam now holds. Hastert’s ascent was unique, coming amid the fallout from the resignation of Newt Gingrich and a Speaker-in-waiting, former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), but the similarities between Hastert and Roskam, particularly their work ethic and modest approach, engenders the respect of colleagues.
Said Shimkus, who was close to the former Speaker: “If you look at Hastert, who didn’t make waves and just kept his head down, he was respectful, he didn’t arm-twist. ... I guess being under the radar pays off.”