By Molly K. Hooper - 10/17/12 09:00 AM EDT
Rep. Greg Walden looks like a sure bet to head the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) next year.
The seven-term Oregon Republican has the full backing of his good friend, current NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas). Walden is also a trusted member of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) inner circle, serving as chairman of the House Republican leadership since 2010.
There has been speculation that Sessions might serve a third term at the NRCC, but sources say that won’t happen.
But Walden, 55, is the clear favorite.
The Portland Oregonian reported that Boehner told Oregon and Illinois delegates at the Republican National Convention that there was a “bigger role” in store for Walden.
Walden has repeatedly stressed that he is focused on the 2012 election, and not thinking about the 2014 contest.
He is considered a true team player. After Rep. Parker Griffith left the Democratic Party in late 2009, Walden gave up his seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee so that the Alabama legislator could serve on the powerful panel.
Walden, a rare politician who is well-versed on campaign politics as well as the weeds of policy, has since returned to Energy and Commerce as chairman of the Communications and Technology subcommittee.
Sessions and Walden, now a deputy at the NRCC, became close shortly after Walden was elected to the House in 1998.
A key source told The Hill, “Pete’s fully supportive of Walden running for NRCC chairman.”
A spokeswoman for Sessions shot down a recent article stating that the Texas lawmaker is mulling a bid for a third term as NRCC chief, suggesting he was jesting with a persistent reporter.
After four years of extensive travel, Sessions, a newlywed, would like to enjoy time with his family, sources familiar with the situation tell The Hill.
Since the start of the 2012 election cycle, Sessions has hit the trail for nearly 100 GOP candidates, helping to raise $128.3 million through Sept. 30.
But it remains unclear where Sessions will end up in the GOP hierarchy in 2013. He could replace retiring Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), though Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) might have the inside track for that gavel.
Another possible option is for Sessions to take Walden’s leadership chairman post.
But for now, the campaign duo will continue their road travels.
From mid-September until the week before the election, Sessions and Walden have campaigned for 18 candidates together in nine states: North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California. They have spent 18 days together on the trail since the House recessed last month and could do as many as a dozen more events together in three states before Election Day.
Both men have raised millions for the NRCC this cycle. According to the latest campaign filings on Sept. 30, Walden had raised $2.96 million while Sessions had raised $2.426 million. Those figures do not include the amount of money they have culled as featured guests for candidates, incumbents and challengers across the country.
Sessions and Walden played key roles in the historic GOP 2010 wave election, when they produced a net gain of 63 seats, handing control of the House back to the Republicans.
“They are good friends; they work well together. The NRCC has had good leadership, in large part because they work in tandem,” freshman Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) said.
The Sessions-Walden bond extends to their sons, who are best friends.
Sessions and Walden spent Tuesday afternoon in Denver, raking in $20,000 for targeted Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.). They subsequently flew to Salt Lake City, where they were scheduled to headline a presidential debate-watching event for House hopeful Mia Love. Other campaign stops this week include Arizona, Nevada and California.
“I tell people, ‘We don’t go to seats we don’t think we have a chance of winning,’ ” Walden said in an interview with The Hill.