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For all the grumbling of conservatives, for all the heartburn and hand-wringing among moderate old bulls, one thing seems certain — short of a cataclysmic loss on Election Day, John Boehner will return as Speaker next year.
In interviews with Republicans from across seniority levels and the ideological spectrum, one theme remains constant — the Ohio Republican might have had his ups and downs, but he remains their leader.
“I’m considered one of the most conservative Members of the entire House. ... People that are more conservative than me make me nervous. So you’d think that I would be aware of any undertow or any plotting, and I’m certainly not,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said last week.
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) agreed. “I don’t think anyone’s thinking about leadership and changes in leadership. I think everyone is focused on the job at hand. We’re excited we just got [the Violence Against Women Act] passed,” Buerkle said, arguing that the GOP’s leadership team has done a good job given Senate opposition to many of its priorities.
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) — the freshman firebrand known for his off-the-cuff assessments — fell neatly in line with those sentiments as well.
“Well, first thing is, you have the wrong premise. We won’t be losing seats. It ain’t gonna happen. It’s just not gonna happen. You might as well ask, ‘Next year, when you become a white guy ...’” West said.
Even privately, Republicans, many of whom are not always charitable in their assessment of Boehner’s leadership, said he won’t face much in the way of opposition, even if the GOP takes a thumping in November.
For instance, one Member who is “not exactly a Boehner guy” dismissed out of hand the idea of a challenge to the Speaker, even if Republican ranks were thinned by 15 or more seats — a level most prognosticators view as a massive defeat.
“No, no. It’s already cooked,” the lawmaker said in reference to the party’s top leadership next year.
One thing going for Boehner is the lack of a realistically viable candidate to run against him for Speaker. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) has found his fate very much tied up with that of Boehner’s, and despite occasional sparring between their offices, Cantor has made no moves to indicate he would even consider a challenge at this point.
Beyond Cantor, Republicans acknowledge there are no other Members who have the standing or support to mount an insurgency against Boehner.
In fact, a number of Members predicted that the sniping at Boehner that has come particularly from his right flank will likely subside over the next several weeks, as lawmakers turn squarely to their re-election bids.
“In a month, it’s shirts versus skins, man,” one lawmaker who has been critical of Boehner quipped.