February 2, 2006

From First to Last - UPDATED

Hatched by Dafydd


There's an election to be held today among the Republican caucus in the House for the majority leader position, which was reluctantly relinquished by Tom DeLay while he fights the bogus indictment of obsessed D.A. Ronnie "Javert" Earle. Denny Hastert will remain speaker of the House, but all the other posts are theoretically up for grabs (in reality, if what I think will happen happens, then only the majority leadership will change).

Majority leader is the number two of the House (no jokes, please; they're all too true to be funny). Next down is majority whip -- which is the position currently held by the frontrunner in today's election, Roy Blunt (R-MO). As Jon Henke in Q&O puts it,

The current front-runner is Rep. Roy Blunt, who claims to be confident that he has the votes to win the position – though not, apparently, confident enough to give up his role as Majority Whip. His ascension seemed almost a fait accompli until January 19th, when all three candidates participated in conference calls with bloggers. While Blunt’s opponents, [John] Shadegg [R-AZ] and [John] Boehner [R-OH], were fairly well received by the bloggers, Roy Blunt was, to put it mildly, not. After the call, a virtually unanimous right side of the blogosphere rushed to ask why Tom DeLay was being replaced by what appeared to be an exact duplicate: a status quo Beltway Republican, the “House GOP's key liaison” to the “K Street Committee”, and owner of more than a few connections to the politically radioactive Jack Abramoff.

Here's my speculation. I don't really know how the leadership races work; but assuming they're somewhat like delegates voting at a nominating convention, then even the representatives that Blunt has in his pocket have probably only committed to him for the first ballot. As I understand it, if nobody gets 50% + 1 on the first, there will be others... and pledged support can peel off and vote for whom it wants. (I think it's a secret ballot.)

Blunt has repeatedly said he has the votes to win on the first ballot, but so far nowhere near enough representatives have come forward to publicly declare their support. My prediction is that if Blunt misses out on the first ballot -- then his support will evaporate like rain in the Sahara Desert. I suspect that most of it will go, not to the forgotten man (John Boehner), but rather to the political Energizer bunny, Shadegg.

So either Blunt wins on the first ballot -- which I doubt -- or else Shadegg wins on the second or third.

The only fly in the oatmeal would the Gore Vidal scenario: if Blunt fails to win but is desperate not to have to work under a "reformer" who might fiddle with the whole K-Street setup, he might try to get his backers to go for Boehner instead, just to shut Shadegg out. I think Blunt could work under Boehner with a lot more comfort than he could under Shadegg. But I don't think he'll be able to wield that much influence with people peeling away from him like the skin from a squirted grape.

So I'm sticking with my original prediction: Shadegg in two or three.

It'll all be over in just a few hours, and I'll find out right quick how close I came. But on this one, I'm no Nathan Detroit... I'm not confident enough to put a bet on!

UPDATE: Results

Kimsch in the comments has the results:

122-109 Boehner in the second vote. Shadegg got about 40 votes in the first round. He dropped out.

AP has the breakdown of the first ballot as well:

Blunt's position in leadership had made him the front-runner, but he ended seven votes short of the necessary majority on a first-round secret ballot. He had 110 votes and Boehner had 79. Shadegg received 40 and Rep. Jim Ryun of Kansas, who was not an announced candidate, got two votes.

After Shadegg and Ryun dropped out, Boehner won his second-ballot victory.

My prediction failed because of something I didn't know, a factor that made the vote function differently from the model I had in mind, the nominating convention. The other commenter on this post, Slarrow, was probably correct:

I could be wrong, but if there is no clear victor on the first ballot, doesn't the second round proceed with the top two vote-getters?

So Blunt was able to get 110 votes of people who were committed (for whatever reason) to the status quo. The real battle was for second place, as only those two would be on the second ballot. It's possible that a number of Republicans were uncomfortable with Blunt, because of his K-Street and Abramoff connections... but they may have thought that Boehner had a better chance to defeat Blunt on the head to head ballot than the lesser known Shadegg.

Suppose, however, Shadegg also had remained in the race. If then, on ballot two, Blunt had again gotten 110-109, it's possible that Shadegg could have matched or exceeded Boehner's vote. At that point, they would have moved to a third ballot -- and Shadegg would have momentum.

But since Shadegg's third-place finish kept him from a rematch for second place with Boehner, that mechanism, where the last place guy works his way up to first, was prevented from functioning... and John Boehner is now the majority leader.

So it goes!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 2, 2006, at the time of 6:42 AM

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The following hissed in response by: slarrow

I could be wrong, but if there is no clear victor on the first ballot, doesn't the second round proceed with the top two vote-getters? So for Shadegg to win, he would not only have to draw enough support away from Blunt to deny a majority but also beat Boehner's total on the first ballot. Given the stated counts on NRO for each candidate, is that really likely?

What you might get is a lot of folks who want Shadegg in their hearts but who vote for Boehner on the first ballot out of integrity, thereby eliminating their preferred choice from the later rounds. That, I think, would be unfortunate. Either stay with the status quo or make a clean break; half-measures won't do much. (Personally, I prefer Shadegg, even though Blunt is MY Congresscritter.)

The above hissed in response by: slarrow [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 2, 2006 8:35 AM

The following hissed in response by: kimsch

122-109 Boehner in the second vote. Shadegg got about 40 votes in the first round. He dropped out.

The above hissed in response by: kimsch [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 2, 2006 11:04 AM

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