The Washington Post moved quickly to attempt to cripple the Majority Leader candidacies of Roy Blunt and John Boehner this morning, writing:
If members think that the departure of DeLay from the scene is not enough to satisfy voters that the party is taking the scandals seriously enough, then Blunt’s bid to become leader might be threatened.
The other likely candidate, Boehner, is a former member of the House leadership with close ties to Washington’s lobbying community and may have difficulty picking up the banner of reform, [Stuart] Rothenberg said.
The Post also cast the succession race in terms of defensive strategy by quoting Rothenberg saying:
“It all depends on how frightened the members are, how much of a statement they need to make that they’re shaking up their leadership and embracing a statement of change and reform,” Rothenberg said.
A frightened party will do exactly as Rothenberg predicts, avoidng Blunt because of his ties to soon-to-be-back on Appropriations Delay and Boehner because of his nickname, “King of K Street.”
A party confident of the contrast it presents to the Pelosi/Murtha Democrats on all other issues will find a squeeky clean fresh face like Eric Cantor to elevate and instantly kill off the Democratic meme that the entire GOP caucus is tainted by Abramoff. It is hard to be tainted when you’ve only been in Congress since 2001. Cantor also has the background on GWOT that would sharpen the contrast with the Pelosi/Murtha Dems. (He was named Chairman of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare prior to 9/11.) Look for Republicans with a long view (or with shakey seats) to approach Hastert and other senior GOP leaders like California’s Jerry Lewis about a unity drive to put Cantor into the Majority Leader’s slot, instantly changing the face of the GOP caucus and the focus of the debate.
Look as well for a new task force appointed by Speaker Hastert to move quickly to address the lobbying reform issue. Among the targets: The former Members wandering the House floor as votes approach, twisting the arms of their old colleagues. Rules Committee Chair David Dreier may lead this, and Democrats will find it hard to refuse an invitation to participate. Again, speed will matter here even as it will in the succession race, as the GOP moves quickly to assure that by the end of spring, the focus is back on tax relief and the GWOT.
The GOP would also be very well advised to find a place in its senior and visible leadership for Dr. David Weldon, a Florida Congressman who serves on appropriations and is just returned from a visit to Iraq. If the very troubling news from Turkey on H5N1 is the beginning of the long feared appearance of human-to-human transfer of the avian flu, then adding a medical doctor to the leadership team will be vitally important as that issue moves very quickly to center stage.
Yesterday six more children who have tested positive for avian flu remained in a critical condition in the Turkish city of Van, near Dogubayazit. Another 24 suspected cases are being treated in a special ward in the university hospital.
A further 18 patients with symptoms of the disease, most of them children, are being treated in hospitals in the eastern cities of Yozgat, Erzurum and Diyarbakir. Other cases are being investigated.
The more the virus comes into contact with humans, the more likely it is to mutate into a form that can be transmitted between people. This has not yet happened; if it does it could start a global pandemic.
The H5N1 strain has killed half of all the people who have contracted it. The Spanish flu of 1918, which killed 40m people, was fatal in fewer than one in 10 cases.