What if conservatives in Congress conceded the Republican majority leader battle in order to win the larger leadership war?
After Eric Cantor’s surprise primary defeat and his subsequent announcement that he would be resigning his leadership position at the end of July, many on the right urged someone with stellar conservative credentials, like Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, to challenge Cantor’s heir apparent, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, for the majority leader spot.
But Hensarling opted not to run and McCarthy cruised to victory Thursday after a nominal challenge by Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador. Some conservative pundits who longed for someone like Hensarling to jump in the race blasted House conservatives for failing to mount a stronger effort for the number two spot in House GOP leadership.
“But let us also be frank here — House conservatives overall have embraced their caricature,” RedState’s Erick Erickson wrote. “The criticism in Washington of the House conservatives is that they are great at blowing sh’tuff up, but terrible at leading.”
I don’t necessarily disagree with Erickson, but it is possible that Erickson and others are missing a major strategic gambit by Hensarling and, by extension, House conservatives. What if Henarsling opted not to fight the majority leader battle so he had more time to organize for an insurgent campaign for speaker?
Look at what Hensarling said in his statement last week after declining to run for majority leader. “After prayerful reflection, I have come to the conclusion that this is not the right office at the right time for me and my family,” he said.
Perhaps Hensarling believes the right office is speaker and the right time is this fall. After the 2012 presidential election, conservative insurgents almost mustered enough votes to force Boehner out as speaker. A better organized campaign just might be able to succeed in November, when leadership elections will take place after the the 2014 midterms. And if Boehner can’t muster up enough of his caucus to retain his speakership, an alternative candidate will be necessary.
Enter Hensarling. With the backing of his friend Paul Ryan, the popular House budget chairman, Hensarling may be in a position to capitalize on conservative unrest in the House.
This isn’t just a theory. National Journal is now reporting that sources tell it that this very well may be Hensarling’s strategy.
“He sounds like he’s ready to run in the fall,” one “Republican source who has been speaking with Hensarling for months about an internal campaign” told the publication.
So fear not, conservatives. The top position in the House may very well soon be yours.