When it comes to the promotion that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is hoping for, most of the focus has been on the MAGA crew. After all, without their votes, he's not going to become Speaker. And indeed, he's really got a problem there. Yesterday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) appeared on Steve Bannon's podcast and said he's got at least five Republican colleagues who won't support McCarthy for Speaker. In a House that is 222-213, as expected, then five votes are enough.
We're not so sure that the MAGA members actually have that much leverage, however. First of all, Gaetz could be lying or exaggerating. Second, this might just be performative, with an eye toward getting extra concessions out of McCarthy. Third, even if Gaetz is correct and even if the MAGA folks are serious, it's not like they are going to get one of their own elected as Speaker. The most they can do is slow down the process, and even that approach has an expiration date.
For these reasons, we think the members that McCarthy should really be worried about are these folks, the ones who won districts that went for Joe Biden in 2020. The third column shows the President's margin of victory in the district, the fourth column shows by how many points the member won in 2020, and the fifth column shows the difference between the two (numbers from Axios):
|District||Representative||Biden Margin||Rep. Margin||Difference|
|OR-05||Lori Chavez Deremer||D+8.9||R+2.4||R+11.3|
|NJ-07||Tom Kean, Jr.||D+3.9||R+3.6||R+7.5|
There are 16 representatives on this list. You will note that 16 is more than the five (or so?) that Gaetz claims. And 16 is also more than enough to make the difference between 218 votes and fewer than 218 votes.
Perhaps most importantly, though, these 16 members have options. There is no way Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) can give her support to anyone who is to the left of McCarthy. On the other hand, a Young Kim (R-CA) or a Jen Kiggans (R-VA) can vote for a Republican of any sort, including the most liberal member of the caucus. They also have cover to partner with the Democrats, should it come to that.
The fundamental truth here is that silly investigations, whether into Whitewater or uranium sales or Benghazi or Hunter Biden's laptop or the Mexican border, absolutely please the kind of people that vote for Greene. But otherwise, their effect is somewhere between "no impact" and "turning voters off." These 16 members know it, and some are already making noises about their unwillingness to be a part of 2 years of far-right political theater. So are some Republicans elected from districts that Donald Trump won. They know that when they face a presidential electorate in 2024, they need to be able to say something more than "we got to the bottom of Hunter Biden's laptop."
So, every day, some sort of meeting of the minds between the Democratic caucus and the more moderate members of the Republican conference becomes more and more possible. The blue team might be persuaded to support a moderate like Kim just in order to stop McCarthy from becoming Speaker. And if that's not enough of a carrot, then getting to keep a few committee chairs should do the job. And if a moderate-Republican/Democratic coalition emerges in the House, then those moderate Republicans become a version of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). They effectively become the gatekeepers who get to dictate what (moderate) legislation passes and what legislation doesn't.
You never know what might happen, but we're getting closer and closer to the point that "not McCarthy" is more likely than "McCarthy" when it comes to the identity of the next Speaker of the House. (Z)