With the premature demise of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the rampant speculation is on how those soon to be shuffled House Republican leadership chips might fall. And it just so happens the name of the Congressman from Illinois’ 6th District is frequently being whispered.
Supposedly, Deputy Whip Roskam has a leg up on the Majority Whip position because he’s already been heavily campaigning for it since folks surmised Speaker Boehner will soon step down.
Perhaps if the House hierarchy worked a bit more like Presidential succession, he’d have a shot, but Cantor’s sudden “retirement” doesn’t mean that everyone automatically moves up a notch. And Peter Roskam knows that better than anyone.
If Boehner did have plans to pass the baton, it ain’t gonna happen now. Losing the two top Republicans two years before they have a shot at the White House would wreak all kinds of havoc on a party that’s already more fractured than a Wedgewood cup run through the dryer.
So the first thing that has to fall into place for Roskam is Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy would have to be tabbed to fill the Cantor vacuum. And he’s from California, a state not generally regarded as a bastion of rampant conservatism.
But let’s say Cantor’s recommendation is enough to make it happen and McCarthy moves up, I still say Congressman Roskam stays right where he is. And here’s why:
1. Illinois isn’t conservative enough.
Washington Republicans tend to be predictable creatures of knee jerk political habit who live to react to visceral stimuli. And there’s nothing more stimulating than watching the House Majority Leader go down to an unknown Tea Partier.
Despite reading those primary defeat tea leaves totally wrong, the last thing the GOP wants to do right now is even tangentially anger their base so they’ll likely elect someone from a bright red state lake Louisiana.
2. Roskam isn’t conservative enough.
Because virtually no Republican is right now. Roskam is about as establishment as it gets on the major talking points like immigration, Obamacare, energy and Benghazi, but despite his recent right turn, he won’t be able to fend off his socially clumsy challenger, Steve Scalise.
Scalise is from Louisiana, he’s as conservative as it gets, and terrified House Republicans will buy into his argument that he “would serve as a red state voice in leadership ranks currently lacking a hard-line conservative.”
In this bizarre caricature the Republican Party has become, the fact that Roskam and the President were once Illinois General Assembly colleagues may be enough to sink his Whip bid.
3. Roskam can’t risk another right turn.
Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham handily dispatched their Tea Party primary opponents by telling their rabid lackeys exactly what they wanted to hear. Now they’ll simply shift back towards the center for the general.
But this ain’t Kentucky or South Carolina, it’s Illinois, a purple state at best. As conservative as the 6th District is, 45 percent of those folks voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Roskam has to run every two years and if he decides to play the ultra-conservative card, he risks losing his seat.
So while some folks say Cantor’s loss provides Congressman Roskam with some upward mobility, I believe it does just the opposite and dooms his higher House leadership hopes. Despite Karl Rove’s best effort to kill the Frankenstein Tea Party monster he helped create, the national GOP is so scared of them right now, they’re about to lurch even further to the right.
God help us all.