Tea Party Republican Michele Bachmann is making waves in her bid for a Republican Conference Chair, the number four spot in the House leadership, but the numbers don’t add up for her success.
The Republicans will have at least 240 seats at the beginning of the next session of Congress, and there are even more seats undergoing a recount that will likely swing to them. So the magic number for election is likely to be around 120 votes.
Hotline on Call reports that incumbent Reps. Louie Gohmert, Steve King, John Kline and Erik Paulsen have committed to supporting Bachmann (see Hotline’s running whip count here). Further, Rep. Michele Bachmann can probably count on many of the votes of the tea party caucus – 52 members as of July 21st, according to Bachmann’s website. A few of these however – Todd Tiahrt, Pete Hoekstra, Jerry Moran, John Shadegg – have moved on and will no longer be in Congress.
If Bachmann doesn’t hold the tea party caucus – her key constituency in this election – she doesn’t stand a chance. Departing Conference Chair and tea party caucus member Mike Pence may have already ended Bachmann’s hopes by declaring Bachmann’s opponent, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, to be his choice. Paul Broun, also a tea party caucus member, has declared for Hensarling as well.
Bachmann’s competitive advantage in almost any other leadership race would be her constitutional conservative, tea party bona fides. But Hensarling’s record in office cuts this advantage down significantly. Although Bachmann is better known nationally, Hensarling’s voting record is actually slightly more conservative by some measures. The National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have all rated Hensarling higher than Bachmann in their rankings for 2009.
‘Establishment’ Republicans are backing Rep. Jeb Hensarling: influential members Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Jason Chaffetz have all declared their support for him. This, combined with the tea party votes that can be siphoned off by the argument that Hensarling is more conservative, means that a Bachmann win is unlikely.
One Republican strategist told FrumForum that the big unknown is how incoming freshmen will vote, especially since so many of them have been elected on anti-establishment, tea party candidacies. Bachmann told Politico today that she has the support of incoming freshman Chip Cravaack, for example.
Let’s say that Bachmann gets almost all of the existing members of the tea party caucus to back her – about forty-five votes. Where do the other seventy-five votes come from? If she gets half of incoming freshmen, she’s still forty-five votes short.
One senior Republican aide tells FrumForum that Rep. Jeb Hensarling is rumored to have a list of one hundred votes committed to him already. Hensarling’s staff has not yet responded to a request for comment, and FrumForum has not been able to independently verify it. However, if this were true, this would mean that nearly every undecided congressman would need to break for Bachmann – a tall order indeed.
On the other hand, it is possible that the Conference Chair vote expected to happen on November 17th may not happen at all. There is some talk on the Hill of a compromise that would see Bachmann being offered the position of NRCC Vice-Chair, a position that would allow the congresswoman to help incoming tea party freshmen acclimatize to the Hill and plan for re-election in 2012.
Bachmann’s best option at this point may be to work for this sort of compromise. With tea partiers like Pence and Broun already breaking for Hensarling, it looks like she won’t be able to garner the level of support within her core constituency that she needs to win the battle for Conference Chair – the numbers just don’t add up.
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