Raul Labrador, the two term lawmaker from Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, announced on Friday that he would run for Majority Leader. Conservatives had been searching around for a candidate since Jim Hensarling (TX) announced he would not run. Eric Cantor and leadership stand behind Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s (CA) bid for the position. So does Labrador stand a chance? To fully answer this question one must first understand what the Majority Leader does.
In many ways the roles of the Majority Leader complements the Speaker. The Majority Leader raises money for candidates and incumbents and also works to prevent members from having to take tough votes on issues. The Majority Leader also aids in scheduling votes and setting the policy agenda of the Caucus.
Eric Cantor was a strong Majority Leader on the fundraising front largely because his district was in Virginia. He also established a reputation as friendly to business interests. It did not hurt Cantor’s district was based in a wealthy state either. In the same mold McCarthy has the same advantage. There are many large Republican donors, even in a state as blue as California and McCarthy knows many of them. McCarthy reportedly makes weekly visits to Silicon Valley to court donors and the tech industry. Further, as Whip, McCarthy already has experience rounding up support for votes.
Labrador boasts none of these advantages. Idaho is strongly Republican but it lacks the donor power of a California. Labrador also has not built up the reputation with business and donors that Cantor did and McCarthy has. What Labrador boasts that McCarthy does not is the trust of conservatives. Still, Labrador is on friendly terms with Boehner and Cantor and has backed leadership supported legislation in the past (Farm Bill).
But of course Labrador’s real chances depend on his ability to convince members he can do the duties of Majority Leader. Labrador will get the votes of many 2010 members but he needs more than that to hit majority support. One should expect his fellow Idaho Congressman, Mike Simpson, to back McCarthy as Simpson is a strong ally of leadership. McCarthy, on the other hand, can count on strong support from many establishment Republicans and some conservative members as well. Already this cycle McCarthy has been to over 90 districts, raising money for candidates and incumbents alike.
Of course much can change between now and Thursday. But Labrador does not have the experience McCarthy does rounding up votes. Further, leadership will not be pushing for him and leadership has the ability to squeeze votes out of members in these kinds of elections. Certainly, the shortness of the election works to McCarthy’s advantage and Labrador’s disadvantage. Labrador only has a short time to round up support and no time to raise money for individuals and in return getting their votes. It seems Labrador’s run might give the largely libertarian/conservative class of 2010 a man to vote for but it is hard to see a two term Congressman from Idaho becoming the Majority Leader.