Courting Conservative Members Helped Boehner Retain Leadership Post

November 20, 2008 - 8:11 PM
Rep. John Boehner's (R-Ohio) reelection as the House Minority Leader was the result of a skillful courtship of House conservatives before and after the Nov. 4 elections, Capitol Hill sources told CNSNews.com.

In this Sept. 29, 2008 file photo, House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, left, listens as Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Wednesday, Nov. 19,2008, Boehner was re-elected as House Minority Leader and Cantor was elected as House Minority Whip. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

(CNSNews.com) - House Minority Leader John Boehner’s reelection on Wednesday to the top House Republican leadership post was the result of skillful political maneuvering before and after the Nov. 4 elections, Capitol Hill sources and an expert on Congress told CNSNews.com.
 
Boehner’s work strengthening one-on-one relationships with members and offering key leadership positions to powerful members of the House’s conservative faction, Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.), ensured that he would not face a serious challenge for his position, sources said.
 
The Ohio Republican's secret-ballot victory, which sources say was overwhelming, came on the heels of the second general election in which House Republicans suffered heavy losses under Boehner’s leadership.
 
Once the general election, in which Republicans lost at least 19 seats in the House, was over,  Boehner moved swiftly to maintain his leadership position by asking rivals Pence and Cantor to fill the two leadership positions just below his own, sources told CNSNews.com.
 
Both Pence and Cantor, who come from the conservative bloc in the Republican Study Committee (RSC), accepted Boehner’s endorsement and were also elected on Wednesday.
 
Sources told CNSNews.com, however, that in the months leading up to the election, Boehner worked hard to fortify his support among his GOP colleagues by offering to meet with almost every member, and wielding his influence as their leader to help win tough races.
 
Danielle Doane, director of House Relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told CNSNews.com that Boehner is renowned in Congress for building and maintaining one-on-one relationships among all factions of House Republicans.
 
Doane also described Boehner as “very active” in his efforts to help his colleagues win their campaigns before the elections.
 
Though Boehner said he does not see his caucus shifting to the political right, sources say that his actions  – endorsing former RSC Chairman Pence and RSC member Cantor to top leadership positions – demonstrate a recognition of a fundamental shift within his caucus.
 
In a speech before the internal elections on Wednesday, Boehner also made overtures to principles with which many conservatives empathize.
 
“I ran for Congress to fight for smaller, more accountable government,” said Boehner.  “This is what drives me.  I think we have a unique chance to renew that fight.  From the Northeast to the Deep South, there is a distrust of Big Government that will only intensify in the months ahead.”
 
Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.), who many consider to be to the political right of Boehner, was the only Republican to launch a campaign against the leader. But, according to sources, thanks to the last minute nature of his run, which was announced only four days before the election, and Lungren’s relative obscurity to the general public, he received only a “handful of votes” in Wednesday’s election.
 
Pence told CNSNews.com on Nov. 10 that he would not endorse Boehner if a more conservative candidate for leader came along.  Though Pence did not endorse Boehner, he also did not endorse Lungren.