…from the Political Diary (sub required):
Competitive elections for top spots in the GOP House leadership are so rare — the last ones were in the days of Newt Gingrich a decade and a half ago — that political observers have forgotten the peculiar dynamics of such races. House elections are held by secret ballot, and legislators are so cagey about revealing their preferences that it’s frequently impossible to know who will win until the ballots are counted. Almost every candidate goes into the final balloting with more pledged votes than he or she ends up getting.
That alone should curb some of the credulous reporting on the upcoming Feb. 2 election for House Majority Leader, replacing fallen leader Tom DeLay. Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt of Missouri launched a preemptive PR strike on Saturday when he announced he had secured more than the 116 votes needed to carry a majority of the 231-member GOP House caucus.
But the fine print of Mr. Blunt’s announcement revealed that only about 85 of his claimed supporters are willing to publicly reveal themselves. That’s certainly more than the number of members claimed by Reps. John Boehner and John Shaddegg, Mr. Blunt’s rivals. But it also indicates some softness in Mr. Blunt’s support. “There are an awful lot of members who don’t want to offend a sitting member of the leadership, and will sign on to avoid trouble,” one member told me. “That doesn’t mean they are there when they fill out a private ballot. A lot can also happen over the next two weeks of campaigning.”