No Conservative Will Challenge Boehner for House GOP Leader’s Post

By Josiah Ryan | November 7, 2008 | 6:46pm EST

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) wants to remain House Republican Leader in the 111th Congress. (AP Photo)

( - Three out of the four most powerful House Republican leadership positions will be changing hands in the wake of Tuesday’s election, in which Democrats gained 19 seats. That won’t include the position of House Minority Leader, however.
Sources on Capitol Hill told that despite “widespread discontent” among rank-and-file Republicans, it is unlikely that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) will even be challenged for his position in the new Congress.
“The general feeling around here is, ‘Let’s just get rid of all of them,’” one Republican aide said Friday. “We’re just not big fans (of Boehner.) We have got to get someone in who has a better way of relating to people.”
But the most likely candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a conservative who, sources say, several members have privately urged to run for the post, took himself out of the running on Friday.
In a statement issued to, Ryan said that despite the “outpouring of support,” he has opted out for personal reasons.
“I share their hunger for reform and will work tirelessly as a policy leader for the Republican Party,” Ryan said. “My first priority in life will always be my wife and my three young children. As I reflect upon the strains that this position would place on my young family, I have decided not to enter my name as a candidate for House Minority Leader.”
House GOP Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) announced last week that they will step down. Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.), respectively, have declared their candidacies to fill those vacancies.
Conservatives outside of Congress have been calling for change in GOP leadership in the House since the election. On Wednesday, reported, conservative activist Richard Viguerie called on the entire House Republican leadership team to step down.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told on Friday that there is actually more pressure for Boehner to step down coming from outside the Capitol than inside, but members are the only ones who truly know who will be their best leader.
“This is one where outside groups and individuals have no say in what happens,” Norquist said. “We can’t possibly understand the internal politics of it, but we can be sure that if members felt strongly enough about getting rid of him, he would be gone.”
One possible reason why no one is rising to the challenge, however, may be that making a run for the position is a political risk many members are not willing to take.
One congressional staffer called it “too much of a personal gamble for a job that nobody really wants anyway.”
Conservatives in particular may have shied away from running against Boehner because they remember the 2006 election, in which Pence ran for leader and was soundly beaten by Boehner 168-27.
“There isn’t the usual purging that you would expect after two election years of loss,” one aide told “In 2006, it became clear that conservatives weren’t going to lead the party. I think House conservatives are recoiling from that.”
After heavy Republican losses in the House in 2006, Pence ran against Boehner for minority leader stating that that “Republicans had not only lost their majority but lost their way.”
“In order to attain a strong and lasting majority there ought to be a new breed of candidates that seek to leave a foundation of arguments in favor of policies that will stand the test of time,” Pence wrote at the time.
Pence, former chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee, is seeking to become House Republican Conference chairman.
“As we choose who will lead us in the days ahead, it is essential that we learn the lessons of 2006 and 2008 with an eye toward 2010,” the conservative member said in a press statement announcing his candidacy.
Boehner has endorsed Pence for the position.
“We need him at the leadership table in the 111th Congress,” Boehner said Thursday.
Both Boehner and outgoing Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) have attributed Republican casualties in Tuesday’s elections to conditions that were out of their control.
“We fought a spirited battle in the face of overwhelming odds and some disadvantages we couldn’t control,” Boehner said in the letter announcing his bid to be reelected as House minority leader.
Democrats expanded their majorities in both the House and Senate, "in part due to circumstances beyond our control," Blunt said.

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