Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Eight Men Out

The House Republican Conference had its candidates' forum yesterday, and eight men made their case that they're the guy to unify the conference and get 217 votes for speaker. One wonders if, one of these days, some voters will notice that no matter how many speaker candidates the Party runs through, there never seem to be any women in the running. That is slightly surprising because the #3 in the Republican caucus, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), acts Trumpy enough that the Trumpists could probably accept her. On the other hand, she was a moderate her whole career and is just faking it now, so the moderates could probably accept her too, since they know she is just an opportunist Trumper. Maybe she is not interested because she has a 2-year-old toddler at home and the speaker has to be away from home a lot raising money for the Party.

Anyhow, yesterday, we listed nine candidates. And yet, we just wrote that eight of them made a pitch to the Republican Conference. What happened? Well, Dan Meuser (R-PA) dropped out of the running. His official reason was that he's gonna be way too busy helping Donald Trump to win Pennsylvania to also be speaker. His real reason is surely that even some of his colleagues said "Dan who?" If there was one person among the nine who had absolutely no lane, it was Meuser, since there are plenty of other contenders who are Trumpy and are NOT backbenchers with no real relevant experience.

Meanwhile, the question of which candidates are election deniers has come up twice in the last 2 days on this site (with two different answers), and keeps coming up on other sites. Let's look at it as systematically as is possible. The two clear, objective criteria for labeling someone a 2020 election denier are: (1) if they voted to reject 2020 electoral votes from one or more states, and (2) if they signed the amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to declare the 2020 results to be phony. Here's a rundown of the eight still-standing candidates, and where they stood on each matter:

Candidate Voted to Reject? Signed Brief?
Jack Bergman (R-MI) Yes Yes
Byron Donalds (R-FL) Yes No
Tom Emmer (R-MN) No Yes
Kevin Hern (R-OK) Yes Yes
Mike Johnson (R-LA) Yes Yes
Gary Palmer (R-AL) Yes Yes
Pete Sessions (R-TX) Yes No
Austin Scott (R-GA) No Yes

In short, you have eight election deniers, including four who might be called double election deniers. And in case you are wondering, the now-withdrawn Meuser is also a double election denier.

The lesson here seems evident to us. Donald Trump cannot build up a candidate to the point that the candidate wins the speakership. If the former president had that power, then we'd be talking about Speaker Jim Jordan (R-OH) right now. What Trump can do is tear a candidacy down, which is why there's no non-election-denier even in the running (nor has there been, as Jordan; former speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA; and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-LA are all double deniers). Admittedly, with 139 members having voted to overturn the results and 126 members having signed the amicus brief, there is a shortage of members who are not election deniers of some stripe. But there are some.

The plan today is for the Conference to hold a series of votes; after each round the person with the fewest votes will be eliminated. They could save themselves some time by just using ranked-choice voting, but we guess that would be too close to an admission that RCV works. This pseudo-RCV system will nonetheless eventually produce a "majority" candidate although, as we've now seen several times, being able to get 113 Republican votes does not mean that a candidate is able to get 217 votes on the floor of the House. Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) said he was confident that the third time would be the charm. It's possible that he's got his finger on the pulse of the Conference, we suppose, so we'll pass it along, but it really just sounds like wishful thinking to us.

What we do know is that none of the eight candidates is going to get Democratic votes. First, "election denier" is a dealbreaker. Second, all eight have committed to the promise made by McCarthy to scuttle an omnibus budget bill. So, if any of the eight gets elected speaker, then we're looking at another messy budget fight. That is presumably a second dealbreaker.

In theory, there will be a floor vote today, but since it's up to the speaker-designate to make the final call, and since there is no speaker-designate right now, this is not certain. It's entirely possible that the member who wins today's secret balloting will insist on having 217 votes before going to the floor. So, the next floor vote could be today or... some other day in the next 3 weeks or so. (Z)

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