Blunt v. Boehner: Blunt’s Lead Grows

It appears that Majority Whip Blunt is close to securing the necessary votes to beat John Boehner in their race to succeed Tom DeLay as Majority Leader.

National Journal’s Hotline reports that Blunt has 62 publically confirmed supporters to 35 for Boehner. Blunt’s office has sent out a press release claiming “Congressman Blunt has reached more than 100 Member commitments in his bid for House Majority Leader.”

According to the Clerk’s office, the current division stands at 231 Republicans, 202 Democrats, 1 Independent. Thus, 116 is the magic number. Assuming that few people go back on their pledge, Blunt is very close to securing victory. It is almost certainly too late for a third candidate to get into the race, too.

Attempts to get responses from the offices of both Blunt and Boehner on allegations that both have unseemly ties to lobbyists have thus far gone unanswered. Blunt’s office sent a “Will get back to you on this” reply yesterday morning but thus far has not.

Update: Boehner’s staff has sent a note claiming,

Team Boehner includes 86 members – public and nonpublic combined – who are supporting John Boehner in his bid to become our next majority leader. Almost three days ago, the Blunt camp was boasting he would go over the top with in the next several hours. That was three days ago, and they’re only able to claim 100-plus supporters without naming them. This race will be decided on Feb. 2.

I am in the process of trying to get more detailed information.

Update: Blunt’s team sends the text of this AP article:

Blunt claims momentum in GOP leadership race

Missouri Republican Roy Blunt claimed Thursday to be just short of the tally required to succeed embattled former Majority Leader Tom DeLay as the No. 2 Republican in the House, even as a potential dark horse candidate mulled a race. Blunt issued a statement claiming more than 100 supporters in the race, though his roster of supporters willing to make their names public contains fewer than 70 lawmakers. To win the race to replace DeLay, R-Texas, requires 116 votes, a majority of the 231 member House GOP conference.

Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., was inching toward a decision on whether to join the race, saying candidates Blunt and Rep. John Boehner won’t move aggressively enough to drive the party, which is shaken by ethics scandals, out of its doldrums.

An aide to Boehner said the Ohio Republican and chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee has 86 committed supporters.

Neither candidate’s claim could be verified. Given the dynamics of the election, which is conducted by secret ballot, it is possible that one or both claims are inflated. Before Thursday, Blunt and Boehner would only reveal publicly declared supporters, and the release of the new claims of support seemed in part designed to discourage new entrants into the race.

Shadegg’s indecision in entering the race may well be a strong indicator that he’s not suited for the job. The secret ballot angle is worth emphasizing, as Members have been known to promise support to both sides. Teddy Kennedy is still peeved that he lost his 1971 bid for re-election as Senate Majority Whip to Robert Byrd, despite having received assurances from a solid majority of his caucus.

Update: The Red State boys disagree, throwing their support Shadegg’s way:

John Shadegg, from Arizona, is a former leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee. John Shadegg is committed to advancing Republican goals. He is also committed to the conservative ideals of smaller government, less red tape, less government imposed burdens, and great individual liberty. Republicans need a conservative team player in leadership and Shadegg fits the profile.

If John Boehner is picked as majority leader, the press will spend the next year beating him like a drum on ethics. The story about Boehner passing out money from the tobacco lobby on the floor of the House will be recycled over and over. If Roy Blunt is picked as majority leader, he will be tied to Tom DeLay, connected to K Street through his wife, and, frankly, will be less a force for the conservative agenda than John Boehner.

It is time for Republicans on Capitol Hill to take ethics reforms seriously and to take conservatives for more than just reliable votes in tight situations. It is time to deliver a reformer and a conservative into the leadership. The time is now for House Republicans to support John Shadegg for Republican Majority Leader.

Methinks it’s too late for that. I agree that we need to get as far away from the DeLay-Abramoff-K Street Project debacle as possible and that neither Blunt nour Boehner seem to achieve that. Still, the time for an alternative candidate to throw his hat into the ring was a week ago.

The only chance I can see for a Shadegg or other Dark Horse candidate is if neither Blunt nour Boehner can cobble together 116 votes in the next couple of days.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.