Many of John Boehner's detractors are lamenting the likely ascension of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the Speakership following next week's leadership elections. What the lower chamber needs is fresh, feisty, conservative leadership, these critics say, sighing that McCarthy represents more of the same. But as I mentioned on Fox News earlier in the week, none of the names that have typically been bandied about in post-Boehner discussions actually want the job. Jeb Hensarling passed. Jim Jordan passed. Paul Ryan passed. Trey Gowdy passed. If you're intent on toppling your party's leader, you'd better have a plan in place to alter the intractable political dynamics that fostered the culture of frustration and disunity that drove Boehner to surrender his gavel. This process must entail coalescing a credible leader who has the support and skills to carry out said plan.
The Fire Boehner/No McCarthy crowd has failed on both counts. Carping and sniping is easy; presenting realistic alternatives is harder. If you loudly demand the keys to the car, you'd better be able to demonstrate some ability to drive. As the 'conservative insurgent' contingent stared blankly at each other, contemplating what comes next, Kevin McCarthy served up a gift. In an ill-conceived attempt to ingratiate himself with disenchanted conservatives, he gaffed, casting the Bengahzi select committee as a partisan exercise that has damaged Hillary Clinton's political standing. This played directly into the hands of Democrats, who've sought to undermine the committee's work and crediblity since its inception. Boehner had to clean up after McCarthy in a press statement, with a string of top Republicans piling on with condemnations. McCarthy appeared on Special Report last night to perform a walk-back, under tough questioning from Bret Baier:
In the wake of this "inauspicious start" for the Speaker-in-waiting, a relatively high-profile challenger has finally emerged, with less than a week to go until members cast leadership ballots:
House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz is planning to run for House speaker, taking on Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in what appears to be a long-shot bid to lead House Republicans, according to multiple sources. The Utah Republican, first elected to Congress in 2008, is launching a campaign less than a week before the Oct. 8 leadership elections for the House GOP Conference. The date for a floor vote to pick the next speaker has not been set yet. McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the overwhelming favorite to win, and it’s unclear how many votes Chaffetz can garner...The last-minute move by the fourth-term lawmaker underscores frustration among some members of the Republican Conference with the current choices to lead the conference after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) leaves at the end of the month.
Chaffetz has been outspokenly critical of McCarthy's Benghazi comments. In his interview on Fox, McCarthy asserted that he's "very close" to locking up the requisite 218 votes to be elected Speaker. Though the Majority Leader's Benghazi flub may have complicated his path to promotion a bit, Chaffetz faces a steep uphill battle. Many members are satisfied with the current leadership team, and McCarthy has earned a reservoir of goodwill within the caucus, having been instrumental in successfully recruiting and supporting many of the party's newer members. McCarthy's critics concede he owns the inside track, but caution that he hasn't locked up the Speakership just yet. And now a relatively plausible second option is in the mix, likely guaranteeing several days of intense Beltway intrigue. Stay tuned.
UPDATE - Two more points: Chaffetz was also in the news this week thanks to the Secret Service's outrageous reprisal-minded targeting of him for performing his oversight duties. And this, from Rich Lowry:
risk for mccarthy is that often someone who is far ahead in a leadership race&falls even a little short will see support completely collapse— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) October 2, 2015