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We're now six weeks out from Election Day and Republicans believe they have a shot at winning a majority in the House of Representatives. If Republicans do take the House, a group of ambitious conservatives is waiting in the wings.
As NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports, they call themselves the Young Guns.
ANDREA SEABROOK: The Young Guns know they can't be the same old GOP.
Representative ERIC CANTOR (Republican Virginia, Minority Whip): The Republican Party lost its way.
SEABROOK: Eric Cantor, the House Minority Whip, laments the ethics problems and the out of control spending of Republicans under President George W. Bush.
Rep. CANTOR: We blew it on spending. We didn't conduct ourselves according to the expectations that people had.
SEABROOK: Cantor is the Young Guns leader. Here's the thinker, Wisconsin's Paul Ryan.
Representative PAUL RYAN (Republican, Wisconsin): If we don't tackle these fiscal problems, they're going to tackle us and it's gonna take our economy down.
SEABROOK: And the strategist is California's Kevin McCarthy. Together, the three make up the top brass of The Republican Young Guns. They've been recruiting fresh conservative candidates in districts all over the country, many of them from the Tea Party, and giving them money and campaign support.
Getting them ready, says Cantor, for their new majority.
Rep. CANTOR: And so it gives Republicans an opportunity to, not only be contrite about the mistakes of the past, but to say, look, we're going to go forward in the right way. We're going to go back to the principles that built this country of free enterprise, of liberty and accountability. And that's what the Young Guns is about.
SEABROOK: But wait, don't the House Republicans already have a leader? Yes, the presumptive speaker-in-waiting, John Boehner.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (R-Ohio, Minority Leader): Listen, I grew up in a family of 12. My dad owned a bar. And as I like to say, all the training I need for my job I learned growing up.
SEABROOK: Boehner described his job as a Republican leader at his weekly news conference. And notice, he doesn't mention ideas so much as people skills. It's the mark of House member who's been around a long time. Boehner knows that the trick to leadership is hard work and making people get along.
Rep. BOEHNER: You work around a bar - I mopped floors. I cleaned dishes. I waited tables. I tended bar. You have to learn to deal with every character that walks in the door.
SEABROOK: Boehner's approach is really different from those idea-oriented Young Guns, says analyst Norm Ornstein at the American Enterprise Institute.
Dr. NORM ORNSTEIN (Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute): They're not on the same page. There's an enormous amount of ambition coming from these Young Guns.
SEABROOK: And it's not clear, says Ornstein, that a new crop of anti-establishment conservatives is going to want to line up behind a long-time party guy like, John Boehner.
Dr. ORNSTEIN: They represent a growing tide in the House Republican ranks, and perhaps a little bit out in the country. Boehner is an old-school kind of guy, so he's looking very suspiciously over his shoulder.
SEABROOK: And just over Boehner's shoulder? Eric Cantor, the leader of the Young Guns. It's a tension categorically rejected by both men, but not by their rank and file.
Representative JEFF FLAKE (Republican, Arizona): Certainly, he's going to be looking over his shoulder. Certainly.
SEABROOK: Arizona's Jeff Flake says with so many Tea Party types likely coming in, this could be a really different, more ideologically pure Republican majority than previous ones.
Represent FLAKE: You're going to have a real change in the way Congress and a Republican majority operate. It's going to be vastly different than it was before. And I don't know that those who are used to that old model will accept the new model very well. We'll have to see.
SEABROOK: South Carolina's Bob Inglis lost his primary this year to one of those new Republican faces. After his defeat, Inglis criticized the GOP's embrace of the Tea Party.
Representative BOB INGLIS (Republican, South Carolina): You know, if I were John Boehner that would be my concern, is how do you make sure to lead without people back-lashing on you, and deciding that no, you're not conservative enough or your not pure enough.
SEABROOK: But again, those Young Guns - Cantor, Ryan and McCarthy - insist that their group is not an attempt to take over the party.
Rep. CANTOR: I reject that notion that somehow there is this brewing battle, because it's just not the case.
Representative KEVIN MCCARTHY (Republican, California): The leader of the Republican Party are going to be the ideas of the party.
Rep. RYAN: That's right.
Rep. MCCARTHY: And that's what's leading us. You know, a lot of people sit back and say, who's the next Newt Gingrich? It's this freshman class coming in. It's the ideas that here. That's what's driving this party. That's the definition of Young Guns. That is what this movement's about: ideas.
SEABROOK: Then again, ideas can't wield a gavel. And if Republicans do win the House majority, a lot of freshmen conservatives will owe their success, at least in part, to the Young Guns.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.
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