McCarthy issues warning to Republicans openly vying for whip
« I think it would backfire on people, if they tried to run for something that’s not there yet, » the House Minority Leader told POLITICO. McCarthy didn’t speak specifically about Ferguson, currently the GOP’s deputy whip, but took a subtle jab when asked about the only whip candidate who is actively seeking backers: « I think what people want to see, these are people doing their job. »
Privately vying for a leadership role ahead of a midterm election is the trickiest of congressional tightrope walks. Members of both parties often try to make noise at the start of leadership candidacies privately, but the appearance of a premature campaign – if too overt – risks attracting attention or even the return of its colleagues.
“Look, I’m a former whip. And that work opened up after we won the election,” McCarthy recalls. « And I think one of the reasons I was able to win the job of whip, only in my third term, is because we focused on getting a majority. And I think that it’s a bigger attribute that people would look at.
Scalise offered a different view, citing various members who « already have conversations with people about what they would do » if Republicans won a majority this fall, as polls and historical trends indicate. is very likely. The Louisianan summed up his view as a matter of priorities: Winning a majority has to be at the top of the list.
Asked about Ferguson, Scalise cited his ally’s fundraising and travels on behalf of House Republicans before adding that “the people working to help us win a majority are what our members care about the most. Drew was one of those leaders who worked hard to bring us to the majority – so that we can then worry about who is going to have what titles.
Scalise declined to say whether he backed Ferguson as whip in the next Congress, noting he would wait until after the election to make a « determination. » But many House Republicans read a series of recent developments as Scalise almost publicly endorsed his chief deputy for the role.
These moves include Ferguson hiring two key Scalise office workers, which coincided with the Georgian taking over sending vote summary emails to the conference that the Scalise office previously managed. POLITICO reported for the first time that Ferguson was the only candidate in the race to ask colleagues for support, including hosting dinner parties where he shared his vision for the role.
Ferguson, for his part, echoed Scalise in saying the conference’s main goal was to win a majority.
« We’re going to stay focused on putting candidates and members in the best possible position to win so we can have the biggest majority possible before the next session, » Ferguson said. “This is the prize we are fighting for. And we don’t take our eyes off the prize.
Meanwhile, some House GOP hands are a reminder that both McCarthy and Scalise followed a similar playbook to Ferguson’s. A former executive aide, speaking candidly on condition of anonymity, said the current GOP leader and whip both positioned themselves ahead of Election Day while running as whip.
« There is precedent for what Drew is doing, » the aide added.
But behind the scenes, Ferguson already has tremendous potential competition.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, is having exploratory conversations with members about the potential to get into the race. When asked if he was running for the role of whip, Banks replied: « Right now we should be focused on winning back the majority and I’ll see where I stand. »
Republican National Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) is also seen as a likely candidate for whip after a GOP takeover, even though he hasn’t started having such conversations. That would break with the central message the House GOP campaign leader sent to members: that their focus should remain on winning in November.
And Rep. Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.), the current conference chair, could still claim the whip spot, though it’s unclear whether she’s redirected her future ambitions to another leadership position. . Although some colleagues have already seen signs that she is preparing to run for the No. 3 role, the Washington Examiner has reported that she is preparing to retire from a whip race.
Other Republicans are now planning a return to his earlier interest in chairing the Education and Labor Committee, which would keep Stefanik’s options open if a top candidate stumbles after midterms in other races at senior management.
Stefanik’s office repeatedly dismissed questions about her future ambitions, saying she was focused solely on her role as House GOP messaging chief.
Broadly speaking, the dynamics of the whip race have changed dramatically after Rep. Patrick McHenry (RN.C.) announced earlier this year that he planned not to seek the role in the next Congress, choosing instead to remain on the Financial Services Committee. And despite McCarthy’s views on the early campaign, Ferguson and potentially Banks could spend months building support as the election approaches while Emmer will be crippled by November.
But if the NRCC’s two-term president can win a sizable majority before the new Congress, he could win a slew of goodwill from members and cash in with a run.
It would mark a reversal from 2010, when then-president Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) was interested in becoming a whip after bringing Republicans back into the majority, but ended up losing to McCarthy – who had started campaigning earlier.
Sessions said he remembered McCarthy asking members for support, an easier feat for the Californian since, unlike Sessions, he wasn’t crippled by a different leadership position at the time.
“I needed to stay focused instead of asking people what puts them in a difficult position. So I chose to wait,” Sessions recalled.