The conservatives' exasperation with leadership is well known. And now, in discreet dinners at the Capitol Hill Club and in winding, hypothetical-laced email chains, they're trying to figure out what to do about it. Some say it's enough to coalesce behind—and start whipping votes for—a single conservative leadership candidate. Others want to cut a deal with Majority Leader Eric Cantor: We'll back you for speaker if you promise to bring aboard a conservative lieutenant.This time around, they're not looking for a few last-minute votes to make a statement, they're actually trying to organize and plan. One big question, of course, is whether this band of rebels can agree on anything for long enough to get it done: Is Cantor pure enough for them? They're not sure about that—which should, as intended, keep him scared enough to do whatever they want if that's the way he gets to be speaker. Then, when it comes to the conservative deputy they'd want him to take on, who is pure enough, widely respected enough, and willing to go out on that limb now? Without a big name committed, it will be hard to build a campaign, but a big name is unlikely to commit before success is assured.
But there's a more audacious option on the table, according to conservatives involved in the deliberations. They say between 40 and 50 members have already committed verbally to electing a new speaker. If those numbers hold, organizers say, they could force Boehner to step aside as speaker in late November, when the incoming GOP conference meets for the first time, by showing him that he won't have the votes to be reelected in January.
Boehner's allies publicly poo-poo the whole scheme, but it's not like he's never been pushed around by these people before. It's just realistic enough that it has to have him sweating at least a little. Which means it's popcorn time for the rest of us.