Politics In The News: Race For House Speaker Heats Up John Boehner's announcement that he is stepping down is forcing the Republican Party into a contest that is pitting its establishment against a new breed of GOP politician.
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Politics In The News: Race For House Speaker Heats Up

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Politics In The News: Race For House Speaker Heats Up

Politics In The News: Race For House Speaker Heats Up

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's turn now to the campaign - not that one, not the presidential race - but a political vote that is coming up much sooner than the presidential election. This one a vote for speaker of the House of Representatives. John Boehner's announcement that he's stepping down is forcing the Republican Party into a contest that's pitting its establishment against a new breed of GOP politicians. And joining us to talk about it, as she does most Mondays, is Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: All right, so some of the big news over the weekend - California Congressman Kevin McCarthy was thought to really be the shoe-in for House speaker. Now he has a serious challenger - Utah's Jason Chaffetz. He's announced that he's in the race to lead the House GOP. How is this all going to play out?

ROBERTS: Well, Jason Chaffetz is the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He claims he was recruited by the tea partyers in the House of Representatives who wanted, quote, "a fresh face and a new person who's actually there at the leadership table in the speaker's role." That's an unusual idea for a speaker - a fresh face and a new person. But Kevin McCarthy went on television last week and said the Benghazi Committee had brought down Hillary Clinton's poll numbers. It's made a lot of Republicans very unhappy because it looks like it's given her talking points. So this is a good opportunity to see, David, what the tea party's strength really is. But even if it's weak, it's never good to be in this position of having a serious challenge, which now Kevin McCarthy has.

GREENE: Well, is this just more of what we've been seeing inside the Republican Party for a while now? I mean, tea party versus the establishment - is there anything new here?

ROBERTS: Well, what's new is that there's an actual challenge, an actual person, running who could get some votes in the Republican caucus, and that could be a real problem for them. Now, what Chaffetz said yesterday is we don't seem to win the argument. Now, the problem is, of course, they don't win the argument because they don't have the votes. And so the question is whether they can rally enough votes to really challenge the Republican establishment. Even if they lose for speaker, however, I think that you're likely to see serious challenges for the other leadership positions. And that can be a problem for years to come in the House of Representatives with people holding grudges against each other. But they're being egged on to do it because the Republican establishment, such as it is, is being challenged both inside the House of Representatives and outside the House of Representatives as you see on the campaign trail with the Republican presidential candidates.

GREENE: Is that the way we should see the presidential race as well? I mean, you had Jeb Bush. He was sort of expected to be the eventual nominee. He doesn't seem to be emerging as frontrunner as quickly as people expected. Is that because the establishment is really having trouble getting the support of people who might be inclined to support the tea party?

ROBERTS: Sure, absolutely. And as we've been saying now for weeks, these outsiders - Trump, Fiorina, Carson - are getting the majority of the Republican primary candidates. But Jeb Bush still has a big problem. He's just not cutting it as a candidate. In a Wall Street Journal-NBC poll yesterday, he came in fourth in New Hampshire and Iowa - half of where he was in the last poll in Iowa. And in the average of national polls, he's fifth behind Marco Rubio. He still has the money, but his donations are likely to dry up because he's really not a very good candidate. Last week, after the Oregon shootings, he said stuff happens, and everybody agrees he didn't mean it callously. But he says things on the campaign trail that get him into trouble. And now the problem is that the establishment doesn't really know where to go with Scott Walker out and Marco Rubio untested and John Kasich not yet someone who's caught on. But the biggest problem they have is the one that's been there all along, which is how someone who can win the Republican primary can also win the general election.

GREENE: Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays. Cokie, have a good week.

ROBERTS: Thank you, David.

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