The Corner

A Close Race?

Another note on the majority leader race. It’s important to remember how it works. It is possible for this thing to be “tight as a tick,” as Dan Rather would say, even if the vote counts don’t make it look like it is (Blunt 92, Boehner 49, Shadegg 16). Because of how the process works, there are two simultaneous races going on and they both could be close.

The first is between Roy Blunt and 117. That’s the number he needs to win on the first ballot. The Blunt people say they are over that in terms of commitments. There is a lot of skepticism about that, but I happen to believe that they sincerely believe they are over 117. The question is how far over, and can they hold it for the next week. If they are only a handful of votes over, they risk falling short on the first ballot–given the usual misrepresentations and misunderstandings that tend to inflate vote counts in these situations. That’s significant because on a second ballot a lot of people who committed to Blunt because he asked first, or for other not-very-compelling reasons, might feel free to go elsewhere.

That makes the second race so important. Whoever finishes second stays in for a second ballot, if there is one; whoever finishes third is out. So Boehner and Shadegg are in a struggle for that second slot. If Boehner is at 90 as some reports have suggested, he is very likely to finish second. But if he is closer to his public number of roughly 50, then it isn’t inconceivable that Shadegg could catch him. If Shadegg finishes second, it seems likely that Boehner’s votes would go to him on the second ballot (given those are anti-Blunt votes, and the nastiness of the Blunt-Boehner competition probably hasn’t made Boehner supporters feel any more fondly toward Blunt.) If that happens, Shadegg could well win.

So there is a plausible path to victory for Shadegg. Is it the most likely scenario? No. Would you rather be in Blunt’s (or in Boehner’s) position? Yes. But this race is still in play, and could be much closer than it looks.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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