Up until 7:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, many in Washington believed that John Boehner would not run for Speaker of the House again after the end of this congressional session. The reasons were numerous: he was tired of constantly fighting with conservatives, tired of the negotiations, tired of having to rely on Democrats to pass legislation when the majority of his conference was against him. Earlier this afternoon, two GOP lawmakers told NBC News they didn’t think Boehner would run for House leadership again:
Two conservative House Republicans say that when their conference elects a speaker in 2015, they don't expect it to be John Boehner.
"I don't think he runs," Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said at a monthly event held by the Heritage Foundation called Conversations with Conservatives. Another conservative, Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., echoed Labrador, saying, "I don't think he's going to come back as Speaker either."
Then Dave Brat happened.
Eric Cantor will not be the next Speaker of the House. Come January of 2015, he won’t even be a member of Congress anymore. That title will be held instead by Dave Brat, Cantor’s opponent. Although votes are still being counted, it appears that Eric Cantor will lose his primary race by double-digits. That’s not just a loss. It’s a beatdown, by a total unknown, no less. While Cantor spent upwards of $5 million on the race, Brat raised just $200,000.
Eric Cantor spent roughly $185 for each vote he received. Dave Brat spent $5.50.
Brat is a local Tea Party leader and college economics professor. He received his Ph.D. in economics from American University. Tonight’s political victory is his first.
So what does this have to do with John Boehner?
With Eric Cantor’s loss, I now assume that Boehner will do everything he can to retain the Speakership. Until tonight, Boehner likely assumed that if he were to step down at the end of the year, his post would be filled by a…transactional politician, much like Boehner. He could’ve rested easy, knowing that the gavel would pass to somebody who knew the ins and outs of K Street as well as Boehner does. Sure, Boehner and Cantor had their differences, but they were basically cut from the same K Street cloth.
Cantor’s loss upends the likely line of succession and creates a completely wide open race if Boehner were to step down. Cantor’s loss also drastically increases the probability that a real conservative like Jeb Hensarling could be elected as Speaker. Is that something Boehner will allow to happen? I have my doubts. Other candidates include Kevin McCarthy, the current party whip, and Paul Ryan.
Brat’s victory over Cantor is obviously bigger than a single House seat would indicate. Brat defeated a man who almost certainly viewed himself as the heir to Boehner’s throne. Cantor’s loss to night isn’t the end of the 2014 Tea Party insurgency. With the House Speakership now potentially in play, it’s just the beginning.