Blunt takes initial lead

Rep. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenators introduce bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy Senate reaches deal on new sexual harassment policy Senators near deal on sexual harassment policy change MORE (R-Mo.) took the first significant lead in declared support among lawmakers yesterday in his contest with Rep. John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRepublicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt Freedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights GOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan MORE (R-Ohio) for job of majority leader, but most members are withholding their public support.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) took the first significant lead in declared support among lawmakers yesterday in his contest with Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) for job of majority leader, but most members are withholding their public support.

The two candidates have cast their race as a clear choice between insider and outsider. Blunt, the acting majority leader, sells members on his leadership record; BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRepublicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt Freedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights GOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan MORE, a former conference chairman under then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), is running a campaign for change.

The two men and their supporters have been locked in battle since the weekend announcement by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that, in the face of pressure to step aside, he will not seek to regain his leadership post.

Boehner has been making calls from his Longworth office, and a handful of supporters have stopped by to make calls for him. Other supporters are working the phones from their district offices. A source close to the Ohio lawmaker said his operation has been running 18 hours a day since Saturday.

Blunt’s team has been working similar hours in his Capitol office, and the majority whip hosted his first conference call Monday night with about 40 members of his unofficial whip team, a source close to the lawmaker said.

Rumors flew yesterday of promises made and votes secured, but little was clear. Blunt and Boehner boasted of 44 and 25 declared supporters respectively — moves designed to encourage others to declare — but, although neither side will disclose its private list, neither, too, appears close to locking up the 116 votes necessary to win.

The two candidates’ swift and sizable campaign operations appear to have scared other members out of the race, but lobbyists and aides say it’s not too late for others to jump in if neither secures a winning margin within the next week.

Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.) sent a letter yesterday to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) asking him to bring forward the election date. It is set for Feb. 2, two days after President Bush’s State of the Union speech. Shaw is concerned that the election will distract from the Republican message at a critical time for the party.

Whatever the eventual date, the candidates are trying to build on existing relationships and shore up support from within the various delegations and ideological groups.

While centrists and conservatives have made the most noise over the past year sparring over the direction of the party, state delegations remain the most consistent barometers of support within the conference.

Blunt has secured the support of all four Republicans in his home state of Missouri; Boehner has a large and loyal following in his native Ohio.

A big state, Florida, gave Blunt a slight public boost yesterday as Republican members of that delegation appeared to rally around the acting majority leader.

Throughout the past year, Florida Republicans have felt underrepresented in the party hierarchy. At least four Floridians will challenge for committee chairmanships at the beginning of the 110th Congress — Reps. Ander Crenshaw for Budget, John Mica for Transportation, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for International Relations, and Shaw for Ways and Means. It is still unclear if they will vote as a bloc, but they have stayed in close contact since the race began early Saturday afternoon.

Shaw, a Blunt supporter, convened a phone call with Florida members Monday to test their views. Nine of the state’s 18 Republicans have already announced for Blunt, with more expected soon, according to GOP aides in the state.

The tally of support by both sides is taken from public statements by the lawmakers.

California and Texas are the two largest states without a member in the race.

DeLay’s decision not to retake his leadership post leaves Texas, the largest Republican delegation in the House, without a member in leadership and only a single chairman, the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Joe Barton. Members of the Texas delegation are set to meet today in Dallas to discuss the race, said freshman Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), but he would not say if the delegation had specific expectations for either candidate. Conaway said he did not want to commit to either candidate until he had a chance to discuss the race with his fellow Texans.

The most prominent member of the delegation — DeLay — has said he will not take sides in the race to replace him. He told his staff last weekend to do the same, one staff member said, allowing the candidates and their teams to build support within the conference. “He believes this is a decision best left up to the conference,” the aide said.

Members of the conservative Republican Study Committee have invited both candidates to address their questions at the group’s retreat, aides said. Their centrist counterparts at the Tuesday Group are also expected to sit down with both candidates once members return later this month, one aide said, with staff expected to discuss the decision before members return.

Boehner has reached out to conservatives over the past several months, and he pushed budget reform — a conservative priority — as one of his few individual policy priorities in his 37-page treatise, “John Boehner: For a Majority That Matters,” released Monday.

Boehner is trying to capitalize on discontent within the party in beating a current member of the leadership while Blunt is selling members on his experience, and the passage of a flurry of legislation has changed the landscape a bit.

Roy Blunt
Fifth term
Turned 56 yesterday
Religion: Baptist
Committee: Energy and Commerce
American Conservative Union (ACU) lifetime rating: 94 percent
* Became chief deputy majority whip at the beginning of his second term
* Elected majority whip in 2002
* Scored legislative wins on Medicare drug bill and CAFTA but attracted criticism from Democrats for keeping roll-call votes open well beyond normal 15-minute time period
* Co-sponsor of bill that would create national registry of sex offenders
* Co-sponsor of legislation commemorating Rosa Parks on a postage stamp

Blunt’s public supporters
Todd Akin (Mo.)  
Rodney Alexander (La.)  
Richard Baker (La.) 
Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnKoch-backed group to target some Republicans over spending vote in new ad campaign Trump to hold Nashville rally amid efforts to boost GOP Senate hopeful The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Tenn.)  
Henry Bonilla (Texas)  
Jo Bonner (Ala.)  
John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanSenate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA House lawmakers to unveil water resources bill on Friday MORE (Ark.)  
Ginny Brown-Waite (Fla.)  
Dave Camp (Mich.)  
Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoPa. health secretary: 'Sustainable funding' needed to attack opioid crisis Senate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — How long can a Trump-DOJ accord survive? MORE (W.Va.) 
Tom Cole (Okla.)  
Ander Crenshaw (Fla.)  
Charlie Dent (Pa.)  
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Fla.)  
Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.)  
Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.)  
Mike Ferguson (N.J.)  
Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.)
Mark Foley (Fla.)  
Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenGOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch Trump’s budget chief talks spending clawback with key chairman MORE (N.J.)  
Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteRepublicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt Immigration petition hits 204 as new Republican signs on GOP centrists threaten to use conservative’s weapon against them MORE (Va.)  
Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesLawmakers left with more questions than answers on Trump infrastructure plan Five obstacles to Trump's infrastructure ambitions White House still eyeing gas tax hike to pay for infrastructure plan MORE (Mo.)  
Katherine Harris (Fla.)  
Kenny Hulshof (Mo.)  
Duncan Hunter (Calif.)
Darrell Issa (Calif.)  
Bobby Jindal (La.)  
Nancy Johnson (Conn.)  
Jack Kingston (Ga.)  
Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThis week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday High stakes as Trump heads to Hill MORE (Ill.)  
Jim Leach (Iowa)  
Candice Miller (Mich.)  
Sue Myrick (N.C.)  
Charlie Norwood (Ga.)  
Adam Putnam (Fla.)
Dave ReichertDavid (Dave) George ReichertGOP lawmakers back discharge petition to force immigration votes Major GOP super PAC expands field offices to 31 districts With bills on the table, Congress must heed the call to fix our national parks MORE (Wash.)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.)  
Clay Shaw (Fla.)  
Chris Shays (Conn.)
Lamar Smith (Texas)
Greg Walden (Ore.)  
Jim Walsh (N.Y.)  
Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.)  
Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonDems target Trump administration's use of military planes in defense bill debate Trump's effort to secure the border is making America safe again Legal immigrants can commend Trump on his efforts to end illegal immigration MORE (S.C.)

John Boehner
Eighth term
Religion: Catholic
Committees: Education and the Workforce (chairman), Agriculture
ACU lifetime rating: 94 percent
* Lost race for conference chairman to then-Rep. J.C. Watts in 1998, 121-93
* Played major role in crafting No Child Left Behind law, which Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) voted against
* Voted against the 2005 highway reauthorization bill
* Co-sponsor of balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution
* Co-sponsor of bill to terminate taxpayer financing of presidential election campaigns

Boehner’s public supporters

Gresham Barrett (S.C.)
Charles BoustanyCharles William BoustanyLobbying world Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response Americans worried about retirement should look to employee ownership MORE (La.)
Steve Buyer (Ind.)
Mike Castle (Del.)
Steve Chabot (Ohio)
Paul Gillmor (Ohio)
Melissa Hart (Pa.)
Dave Hobson (Ohio)
Sam JohnsonSamuel (Sam) Robert JohnsonMay brings key primaries across nation Loss of Ryan hits hard for House Republicans Watchdog: Social Security acting head hasn't been authorized to serve for months MORE (Texas)
John Kline (Minn.)
Ray LaHood (Ill.)
Tom Latham (Iowa)
Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.)
Buck McKeon (Calif.)
Anne Northup (Ky.)
Devin Nunes (Calif.)
Mike Oxley (Ohio)
Steve Pearce (N.M.)
Jon Porter (Nev.)
Jim Ramstad (Minn.)
Jim Saxton (N.J.)
Pete Sessions (Texas)
Mike Simpson (Idaho)
Patrick Tiberi (Ohio)
Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldWhy Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? Overnight Energy: Green group sues Exxon over climate science MORE (Ky.)


“If it hadn’t been for that December finish, [Blunt] might be in a more defensive mode,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a Blunt supporter.