As last week came to an end, Republicans, bitterly disappointed by the results of the midterm elections, were experiencing the kind of disarray too often attributed to Democrats. As this week gets underway, it’s vastly worse.
Let’s start with the House and this NBC News report:
Conservative lawmakers sent a strong message to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday, telling him he doesn’t have the votes to be the next speaker. The warning shot came just one day before McCarthy heads into a closed-door election seeking to become his party’s nominee for speaker of the House starting in January.
In the short term, McCarthy probably isn’t too concerned: House Republicans will meet today, and he’ll need a simple majority of their support to be the GOP’s nominee for House speaker. The Californian is all but certain to clear this threshold, though the far-right House Freedom Caucus doesn’t intend to make this easy.
Indeed, while McCarthy would much prefer not to have an intra-party rival, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, the current head of the Freedom Caucus, is reportedly planning to challenge the party leader. McCarthy will almost certainly have considerably more support within the GOP conference, but the challenge will itself be emblematic of the party’s deeper divisions, while reinforcing the apparent fact that McCarthy does not yet have the support he’ll need for the gavel.
And that leads us to the incumbent House minority leader’s longer-term problem: To become speaker, McCarthy will need 218 votes. There will probably be around 220 House Republicans, a significant chunk of whom are threatening to withhold their support.
How will this be resolved? For now, no one seems to have any idea, but if the process drags out in the new year, and no one has the votes necessary to become speaker, Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon, a relative moderate among House Republicans, told NBC News last night that he’s willing to work with Democrats to elect a more mainstream leader for the chamber.
Conditions are hardly any calmer among Senate Republicans, who’ll meet tomorrow in the hopes of choosing their leadership team for the next Congress. Some GOP senators continue to demand a delay in the process, and they were joined yesterday by a group of several dozen prominent far-right voices, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and right-wing activist Ginni Thomas.
For his part, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz added yesterday that he thinks it’d be “insane“ for the party to stick with its current leadership team, while Florida Sen. Rick Scott suggested he might yet take on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, claiming that he’s received encouragement from “a lot of people.”
The Republican didn’t say whether Democrats were among those people, though it’s probably fair to say the majority party would be delighted to see Scott and McConnell fight some more.
Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel indicated yesterday that she intends to seek a fourth term, despite her party’s recent failures. Her fate is far from secure: A variety of rivals have already expressed interest in the gig, and conservative media figures appear to be turning against McDaniel in overt ways.
It’s against this backdrop that Donald Trump picked today to launch his latest presidential campaign, even as much of the party blames him for the GOP’s unexpectedly poor showing.
Other than all of this, Republicans are hardly experiencing any disarray at all.