It’s time to start thinking about who will be the next Senate Majority Leader. (Big hint: it ain’t John Cornyn)
On the front page this morning, Erick explains why Mitch McConnell’s USE BY day is about to come due. If he doesn’t lose the GOP primary to Matt Bevin, he’s more than likely to lose the general election. Either way, he’s a goner, which is great thing for both the GOP and the nation.
As politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, one must assume that the wheels are already starting to turn inside a great many heads; wondering, pondering, weighing the possibilities, asking “what if..”
If we are to truly change Washington, we won’t do so by evicting McConnell just to replace him with John Cornyn. It’s important that conservatives start making plans for the post-McConnell era, coalesce around a candidate, and begin to exert pressure on GOP senators not to choose Cornyn as the “default” option.
So let’s do some projections, shall we?
If the GOP has a 51 seat conference next year, then it takes 26 votes to elect the majority leader.
Assume that all Republicans, except McConnell, are re-elected. In three states, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, the GOP will hold the seat of a retiring Republican.
So where might we find the 26 votes needed? Who would be open to electing a true conservative as majority leader?
The new senators from Georgia and Nebraska, likely elected with strong Tea Party support, top the list. Among the newly won, formerly Democrat seats in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia, and Montana, none are that beholden to Cornyn, and most could well vote for someone else.
In states where there is an active Tea Party challenger to a sitting Republican (Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee) the chances are pretty good that we’ll get at least two seats.
So, by my rough count, and including Kentucky, that’s somewhere between 12-14 possible votes for a challenger to Cornyn.
We thus need to find another 14 votes among the sitting Republican Senators.
I should state here that my preferred candidate for the position is Mike Lee of Utah. His conservative credentials are impeccable. In addition, he is very articulate, media-savvy, photogenic, and will be a superb spokesman for conservative values and principals, especially in the next two years as we work to win the White House.
To those who will advocate for Ted Cruz..I say only that one can’t function as the majority leader AND also run for the White House. If, however, sometime in the next 6 months, Cruz takes himself out of the running for the presidential nomination, then he would have my support if he chose to run for Majority Leader. Though I’m not quite sure if Cruz aspires to a position that some equate with “trying to herd cats.”
Here then, are how the votes might shake up:
Likely to support Lee: Lee, Cruz, Paul, Rubio, Boozman, Risch, Vitter, Fischer, Scott, Toomey, Johnson, Barasso. That’s twelve.
Somewhat less likely are: Crapo, Coats, Moran, Heller, Hoeven, Portman. Six more.
On the fence: Hatch, Enzi, Thune. Part of the GOP leadership/establishment, but well aware of the power and impact of the Tea Party/base forces. Three more.
Long shots: If 2014 becomes a wave election, likely due to increased disgust with Obamacare, the GOP might (I repeat, might) pick-up seats in Iowa, Michigan, Utah, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Oregon. These would be as a result of strong Tea Party/base support, and thus not beholden to Cornyn, and likely to vote for someone else. Let’s say we get two of the six.
The two key Republican Senators to watch: Jeff Sessions and Jim Inhofe. Both are strong conservatives, and long serving senators, yet are not part of the GOPe. If either, or both, decided NOT to support Cornyn, that could decide the issue.
In summary, there appears to be at least a bare minimum of 24 senators who would support Mike Lee ( or another challenger to Cornyn) and as many as 19 more votes could be there is everything broke the right way. That’s not going to happen, but all we need is two more..and that’s definitely going to happen.
One key point: Cornyn faces his own primary, in ONE MONTH. There are several candidates, and it appears that they are hoping to replicate the Cruz victory path…hold Cornyn to under 50%, and then beat him in the run-off. I don’t think that’s viable, because the circumstances aren’t the same. Cruz ran for an open seat. Here, Cornyn’s a sitting senator, part of GOP leadership, and a potential Majority Leader in waiting. And because the Texas primary is so soon, the race really becomes a referendum on Cornyn. It’s just a question of how mad Texas conservatives are. They may not be pissed-off enough to toss him out, but if Cornyn barely manages to eke out a majority in the primary, that will be an additional, and critical signal to Senate Republicans that he is NOT the one they should elect as their leader. It would be McConnell 2.0
Look, I’m no Washington insider. I don’t pretend to be ( and I’ve NEVER even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.) I do know that, especially in the Senate, personal relationships are very important in leadership elections, as they’re done by secret ballot. We’ve seen many times in the past that “promised” votes don’t materialize, and anything’s possible.
However, we can be fairly sure of the following:
1. McConnell’s likely a goner, one way or the other.
2. Cornyn is exactly who we DO NOT need as Majority Leader.
3. Preliminary, (and admittedly rough estimates) suggest that the votes will be there to elect a true conservative as Senate majority leader.
It is therefor necessary that conservatives immediately begin to plan for that eventuality, assess the field, focus on a viable candidate, and begin to lay the groundwork to elect that person.
My choice is Mike Lee. Simply put, he’d be a superb choice. But there are a few others I would gladly support.
This is truly an ABC election. Anyone But Cornyn.