The House GOP ghost whip race is on — and crowded
“We have a long way to go until November. But I think what most of us are watching is who is doing the most to help us win back the majority and who is advancing the America First agenda that the Republican Party stands for today,” said the Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee. “You must check both boxes.”
The ghost whip race is already underway, despite members’ usual insistence that they won’t take the lead until the midterms. It’s not a definitive or definitive list with election months, but some of these members are laying the groundwork by raising money for their rank and file colleagues, funneling funds to the GOP’s campaign arm, and organizing dinners with members to foster relationships across the conference. No member has publicly stated they are running so far.
“I believe the whip race is quietly on…and it won’t be long before it’s an open fight,” said a person familiar with the situation, who granted anonymity to speak candidly.
McHenry is considered one of the best candidates for the role, but he has options. As the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, he is poised to become chairman of the powerful panel if the GOP wins a majority. He will, however, be time-limited in this position after 2024, with no guarantee that a leadership position will reopen at that time. For now, McHenry remains mum on his plans.
Members have varying views on his chances of winning the whip job. His allies say it’s his race to lose, while others point out that some of the other suitors have taken a more active role in fostering relationships with newer freshmen, an advantage that will worsen with the incoming class of 2023.
“Congressman McHenry is focused on regaining the majority and his policy work on the Financial Services Committee and with the Jobs and Economy Task Force,” McHenry’s spokesperson said, Jeff Butler. “As for what comes next, he’s happy to have options on how best to serve the conference.”
Recently raised Stefanik tries to get a feel for the potential field, with two members telling POLITICO she was putting up antennae. But The New Yorker’s plans are unclear.
When Stefanik pursued the role of conference chair last year, she sought to assuage the early doubts of the party’s pro-Trump wing by telling them she would only serve one term as head of the party. House GOP messaging. After that, she intended to lead the House Education and Labor Committee in 2023.
However, several members pointed out that her one-term pledge was specifically for the role of conference president, not leadership as a whole. It’s not uncommon for lawmakers to ignore self-imposed term limits, but Stefanik could also choose to pursue other leadership positions, like whip, as they shuffle a potential GOP majority.
And some Republicans said she was stepping up her efforts privately. They also see her work to curry favor with former President Donald Trump – she shared a scene with him earlier this year – as a way to build support, as well as her successful efforts to get more women elected. of the GOP in the House.
Stefanik’s office declined to comment, pointing to a previous statement they provided to POLITICO that it was focused on winning back the House.
She’s not the only potential candidate with leadership on her resume. Ferguson, the current Deputy Chief Whip, is perhaps the most active behind-the-scenes lobbyist. Several lawmakers said he told members he wanted the spot and asked if they would support his candidacy.
“Drew was very aggressive,” said a Republican member familiar with his efforts, who granted anonymity to describe the shadow race. “He brought members together for dinner, laying out his vision for it [role].”
Ferguson declined to comment when asked about his leadership ambitions.
Meanwhile, Emmer, who is well into his second term leading the House GOP campaign arm, should also be looking to his next move — especially as Republicans forecast a successful year of winning seats. The members say it would be smart for Emmer to pick up a win, which they predict in November. But the Minnesotan kept his options open on what to do next.
He will not enter into discussions about his next steps, telling anyone who asks that he is focused on seeing his team pass the midterm elections. Various Republicans say that although Emmer hasn’t approached them to talk about his next moves, they think he could be a strong candidate for whip. He has received widespread praise for his efforts from the party’s disparate wings, which could be strengthened or weakened depending on the electoral performance of House Republicans, which one member called a ‘big factor’ for the future. from Emmer.
If Emmer does not pursue the role of whip, his influence could give him options. Emmer sits in Financial Services and if McHenry leaves, he could try to take the top spot in the group. While the decision would rest with the leadership-aligned GOP steering committee, some of its members have signaled they want to reward Emmer for his efforts over the past two cycles.
Emmer and McHenry are considered allies, so the Emmer muse members would step down if McHenry opted for whip. But one member cautioned: “Again, this is politics.”
NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams said in a statement that Emmer is focused on regaining the majority.
And, as is often the case in races for the direction of musical chairs, other members are waiting to see what the others do.
Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson, vice president of the conference and former chairman of the Republican study committee, is seeking to run for conference president, sources say. Banks, the current chairman of the Republican study committee, is watching whether Stefanik steps down as conference president or if another leadership position opens up, members say.
And several candidates are seeking to take Emmer’s place in the House GOP campaign arm. Rep. Richard Hudson (RN.C.) told colleagues he intends to run for NRCC president, but only if Emmer leaves the post. Hudson, who is not actively campaigning for the job, confirmed his interest in the role to POLITICO but said his goal was to win back the majority.
He’s not alone — Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) has also privately told colleagues he’s interested in the campaign chairman job, according to lawmakers.
With the race months away, members recognize that a lot can happen. Lawmakers only seem to agree that there is no favorite candidate and, as one put it, “Obviously it’s going to be a hotly contested race.”