The Middle Choice

The House GOP held their leadership election today, and in a decision between staying with business as usual or embracing reform, the Republicans chose a path somewhere in between the two. John Boehner of Ohio becomes the new Majority Leader of the House, beating current Majority Whip and former front-runner Roy Blunt on the second ballot:

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio won election Thursday as House majority leader, promising a steady hand and a helping of reform for Republicans staggered by election-year scandal.
Boehner, who replaces indicted Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, said the GOP “must act swiftly to restore the trust between Congress and the American people.”
He defeated Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri on a vote of 122-109 by House Republicans after trailing his rival on an inconclusive first round.

My preference would have been John Shadegg of Arizona, the true outsider in this race. He had no connection with the Abramoff scandal and has a sterling reputation among conservatives. He’s a budget-cutter and a small-government activist. However, he has little experience with party leadership and some in the GOP had concerns about Shadegg’s ability to help them get re-elected. Roy Blunt has plenty of experience in both areas and clearly expected those key abilities to carry the day; he bragged for two weeks that he already had the votes for election. However, after the first ballot proved inconclusive, it showed that Blunt was already out of touch with his caucus, who apparently decided that Blunt had too many connections to Tom DeLay and to Abramoff for their taste.
So in the end, they voted for John Boehner. Boehner came to Congress just before the Gingrich Revolution and has his roots in rolling back government. Boehner also has plenty of experience in helping fellow Republicans raise money and get elected. He did well among the bloggers, most of whom praised his openness while still supporting Shadegg — including me. However, Boehner still faces some criticism over his own connections to the Abramoff scandal, including his refusal to return $30K of campaign funds from Abramoff-represented Indian tribes, all of which came to his PAC and not to his campaigns.
I like Boehner better than Blunt, although except for some tin-eared interaction with QandO, I didn’t dislike any of the three candidates. However, the GOP missed an opportunity to make a bold statement on reform with this election. Shadegg had no connection to Abramoff cash despite representing a state with a large Native American population, and he represented a clean break from the past. His election as Majority Leader could have put the Democrats on the defensive and created a bullet-proof, media-friendly face to the GOP caucus. Instead, the Republicans decided on a moderate gesture towards reform, at least in terms of public relations.
My congratulations still go out to Rep. Boehner. Hopefully he will pursue reform and lead the Republican caucus towards arresting the reach of government, which causes the corruption in the first place.