Boehner foe could face ’16 backlash

Rep. Daniel WebsterDaniel Alan WebsterMellman: A Republican betrayal Bottom line Republican senators and courage MORE may have hurt his reelection chances with his ill-fated challenge to Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' Cheney on Trump going to GOP retreat in Florida: 'I haven't invited him' Republicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' MORE (R-Ohio).

The Florida Republican was the leading GOP vote-getter in the scattered conservative challenge to Boehner’s reelection as House leader, pulling a dozen supporters.


But the three-term congressman represents a district that could soon become more Democratic, thanks to court-ordered redistricting. And in a reelection battle where he’ll need to raise a lot of money, he may have just alienated the very people who can help him financially fuel a campaign.

Republican leaders have already stripped Webster of his spot on the House Rules Committee, and some of Boehner’s foes are already predicting that the Speaker and his allies will push big donors to abandon the rebels.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and Boehner’s office declined to discuss any further repercussions, but sources close to leadership privately predicted that the rogue members might face financial repercussions as well.

“Your fundraising opportunities will be severely truncated after this vote,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who voted against Boehner on Tuesday, told The Hill. “Particularly here in Washington ... the PACs will be told not to give you money.”

Webster’s challenge to Boehner seemed quixotic. More than a half-dozen members said they had no idea he was running, and many from his home state of Florida who have known him for years were shocked that he pulled the trigger.

The former state senator and Speaker of the Florida House has never been known as a conservative firebrand, and his voting record has been near the center of the GOP conference, unlike those of most of the Republicans who backed him.

“I never heard from him,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.). “I was very surprised, just shocked ... I heard some people mention his name and that was all I heard and then the next thing I know we had the vote.”

“In the Legislature he was, I mean [Webster] was conservative, but a Jeb Bush conservative, a consensus-building conservative,” said freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who served with Webster in the Statehouse.

The last-minute decision may haunt Webster next year.

After a Florida court last year ruled the lines of his Orlando-based district were unconstitutional, strategists in both parties expect Webster’s now-GOP-leaning seat to become a few points more Democratic.

That could spell trouble; Webster only beat former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, a top Democratic recruit, by 4 points in 2012 under the current lines. For 2016, Democrats are hopeful they can convince Demings to mount another campaign against him.

Even if GOP leadership and its business allies come after the donors of Boehner’s opponents, they might be able to replace that money with small donations from enthusiastic Tea Party activists. Webster also may have to win over centrists in a new district — and the vote could hurt him there as well.

“If you’re a smart guy like Danny Webster, whatever you lose from the donor class and Boehner being pissed at you, you might gain in credibility from the online donor world and conservative network you might not have had before,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based GOP strategist who said he considers Webster a friend. “You become the guy who’s been leading the good fight against the establishment and D.C.”

Webster’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Floridian isn’t the only Republican who could pay in campaign dollars for his opposition to Boehner.

Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) just won a surprise victory in a Democratic-leaning district with a lot of help from leadership. Boehner himself stumped for Blum in the closing days of the campaign, and the NRCC and the American Action Network, a major center-right outside group with ties to leadership, spent heavily to help him win.

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) also hails from a swing district, but bucked Boehner.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), another Boehner foe, said his 2012 vote against him didn’t hurt him financially, laughing that “the NRCC’s never helped out anyways.”

His campaigns have been fueled by online fundraising from Tea Party candidates and libertarians rather than political action committees and business Republicans, helping him fend off a well-funded GOP primary challenger last year.

But Amash said in a general election, he would expect the NRCC to step up for Republicans in competitive districts even if they were Boehner antagonists.

“At the end of the day the NRCC and other organizations want to win general elections,” he said. “They’re going to make sure they get as many seats as possible.”