House Republican leadership — where are the conservatives?

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R) from California is the frontrunner and the clear establishment choice to replace Eric Cantor (R) as majority leader, and Illinois's Peter Roskam (R) is reportedly also getting a similar push to ascend to McCarthy's spot as the whip.

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California and Illinois contributed 75 of the 270 Electoral votes needed to elect Barack Obama president, and their state governments, which draw congressional district lines, are overwhelmingly controlled by Democratic machines.

Each state is suffering from massive budget crises and they are likely to be first and second in line for federal government bailouts of their rapidly deteriorating pensions systems.

Yet, many House Republicans somehow think it is a good idea to put their collective political fortunes into the hands of members whose very political existence depends upon a politically motivated stroke of a redistricting pen.

Unlike the Newt Gingrich-led Republican revolution in 1995, where Texans Dick Armey and Tom DeLay manned these posts under the Georgian, the not-so-Tea-Party Republican Conference seems to be leaning toward leaders who are dependent upon in-state Democratic regimes. This is hardly the prescription for making the kind of hard budget choices and fighting the battles that will define our nation for the next decade.

Yet, at this writing, no conservative candidate has announced for the majority leader spot, and the alternative for whip, Steve Scalise (La.), has proven to be more of a cheerleader for Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) than a leader for the conservative Republican Study Committee.

And this is one of the true revelations of this once in a lifetime, midterm leadership fight. After all the concerns voiced about the direction that Boehner's team is taking the House, no one is rising up to the challenge now that the opportunity is present.

While leadership elections are very similar to student-body elections in that it is in many cases more about personality and less about philosophy, time is almost up for House conservatives to seize this opportunity to lead our nation, or be rendered obsolete backbenchers and gadflies who can't be taken seriously.

As of this writing, it seems that the latter is more likely than the former, and our nation will suffer as a result.

Manning (@rmanning957) is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government. Contact him at rmanning@getliberty.org.