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It's the aftermath of the elections and that means Congressional power plays! While all eyes right now are on Nancy Pelosi's future plans, another situation is developing in the House GOP caucus, one that is already splitting party leadership and could end up further damaging GOP hopes to repair their already dismal image with women voters.  The situation is the contest for the #4 position in the House GOP caucus, the Conference Chairmanship, where current occupant Jeb Hensarling is stepping down to assume the chairmanship of the Banking and Finance Committee. And who are the contenders? TPM has the news:

Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) and Tom Price (GA) will go head-to-head Wednesday afternoon as the members hold a closed-door vote to elect the next House Republican Conference Chairman, the party's No. 4 leadership role.
Who are these two, you may ask?
McMorris Rodgers is the highest ranked woman in the House Republican conference, and a loyal leadership ally who has earned their trust as the conference vice-chair. A surrogate for Mitt Romney's presidential run, she isn't known as a hard-line idealogue but has cultivated a conservative voting record in recent years.

Price, meanwhile, is the favorite of the GOP's conservative wing. A former chairman of the deeply conservative Republican Study Committee, he has been backed by outgoing conference chairman Rep. Jep Hensarling (TX), who is expected to chair the Banking Committee next year.

And given the state of the GOP following the election smackdown they recieved, it's no wonder the House GOP leadership is already divided and taking sides:
Speaker John Boehner is officially neutral but privately supporting McMorris Rodgers. Paul Ryan, the returning chairman of the Budget Committee whose profile rose enormously during his vice presidential run, is asking colleagues to back Price.
Sounds like Ryan read Eric Erickson at RedState today and decided to throw his weight around. And he's not the only heavyweight defying Boner to back Price; as Politico points out, Mike Pence, who preceded Hensarling as conference chair, is also backing Price. (Both also chaired the Repubican Study Committee before him as well.)

McMorris Rodgers, however, is no slouch herself and has her own list of big-time supporters. Besides Boner, the NY Times lists these backers:

Allies say she has the support of 15 committee chairmen, including Representatives Fred Upton of the Michigan of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Peter King of New York of the Homeland Security Committee; and Darrell Issa of the California of Oversight and Government Reform.
So it's shaping up as a battle between the establishment and the teabaggers in the GOP House caucus. But as the WSJ, the outcome of this could have an impact on the GOP's attempts to rehabilitate their image with women voters, an image currently in tatters after Obama's reelection and the actions of the GOP Rape Caucus.
Ms. McMorris Rodgers, 43, also is conservative. But as a young mother from the Northwest, she fits a profile that is rarer for the GOP and that House members might find appealing after an election in which the party struggled to attract female voters.

The contest is "a big deal" said John Feehery, a onetime aide to former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert. "From the Republican standpint, it will give you a sense that Republicans want to get a broader base or that they want to consolidate their conservative base. That will give you a sense of where the members are: Are they worried that they are not diverse enough, or are they worried they are not conservative enough?"

To put it mildly, the defeat of McMorris Rodgers, the only woman in the House GOP leadership, by a hard-right Southerner like Price would not help the GOP's image with women. It's an image the House GOP is already sorely lacking in:
As the GOP grapples with outreach to women, House Republicans could go into next year with no women at the helm of any committee.
But don't worry, they've got a plan!
Party leaders have been careful to include women such as Reps. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee in their public events. They also say privately they plan to redouble their efforts to recruit women and minorities to run for Congress in 2014.
So your new plan is to give lots of airtime to teabagging whackjobs like Ellmers and Blackburn (what, no place for Michelle Bachmann?) and recruit tokens like never before. Fullproof!

One thing's for sure:

The House leadership elections are something of a test of whether conservative Republicans feel chastened in the face of an election setback. But while some Republican leaders believe the party needs to make a course correction, many backbenchers have a different view, since many of them won re-election by a wider margin than the president's.
Be sure to keep an eye on the outcome of this contest. It may give an indication of what direction the House GOP intends to go.

Oh and ready the popcorn, just in case.


Who do you prefer as GOP House Conference Chair?

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| 139 votes | Vote | Results

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