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Washington Examiner’s David Drucker On The Ex-Im Bank, The Possible Catalyst For The Speaker Battle Between Cantor And Hensarling

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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HH: David Drucker, I want to talk to you about the Wall Street Journal piece on Saturday about the Ex-Im Bank. I wrote about it today, and it’s clear that this is Jeb Hensarling’s play to put Eric Cantor in a corner. Is it going to work?

DD: I don’t think so, ultimately. I think that Hensarling is a very talented political player. And he’s very smart when it comes to policy and politics. But I don’t think at the end of the day he’s going to be able to outflank Cantor if the race is about the next Speaker.

HH: Well, that is what I think it is about. I don’t know that John Boehner’s going to quit before the election, but it seems to me like he’s definitely not coming back. And starting this whole Ex-Im debate in the Finance Committee, quarreling with Campbell, trying to get it killed out, I just see it as a way of setting up Eric Cantor to make a vote in favor of “crony capitalism.” Am I wrong?

DD: Well, you might be right, and there are a lot of people looking at the leadership jockeying, and are trying to figure out exactly what Hensarling is up to. And this was the case, by the way, with the flood insurance bill, which I wrote about recently. But I think that the people that I talk to, and everything we think is happening, seems to me to indicate that it’s possible Hensarling could be angling for a race for majority leader, in a sense, Cantor becomes Speaker, and there would be a contest for majority leader, possibly also for whip. But a guy like Hensarling, I think, might be shooting for majority leader, which could set him up in a race against Kevin McCarthy. And look, there’s a case to be made that Republicans at the senior level are going to lose at least one person from a red state from the South, and somebody who also knows how to play some of the inside game, which Hensarling knows how to do. And I think that that’s where this could be headed. But it has shaped up recently. If you look back at the bank issue, Ex-Im Bank, and if you look at the flood insurance, it’s been Cantor V. Hensarling with Cantor trying to move something across the finish line legislatively that people believe needs to get done, and Hensarling unwilling to move too much and stray too much philosophically from the conservative position.

HH: Now I also think, isn’t it the case that they just have to make Cathy McMorris Rodgers, they’ve got to have a woman in the top three, right?

DD: They don’t have to have her in the top three. They have to have it in the top four. And the way I, what I think we’re looking at is you’re going to see somebody sort of from the conservative ranks, so-called, I mean, they’re all conservative these days, almost all of them, Hugh, you know, post-2010 and along with redistricting. But you’re going to have to have probably somebody who’s perceived as a little bit more politically conservative maybe shoot into the whip position so that if you have everybody move up one, there’s a contest for whip, possibly a contest for majority leader. And it sort of depends on what Cathy McMorris Rodgers wants to do. But most of my reporting doesn’t show her moving into the whip position. It shows her possibly standing pat. You’re looking at maybe Steve Scalise for whip, maybe you know, people are talking about Price, who I’m told has a good operation, but seems to be angling to be the next Budget chairman. And that’s why I think the contests that are interesting are whip and majority leader. And the one thing I say about Cantor and Hensarling is this. Cantor has spent a lot of time cultivating relationships. And a lot of times, this is about, as one member told me, it’s a service business. It’s about how you’ve helped members, and how good they feel about you, whether it’s fundraising or legislation, and many other things that go into this. And I think Cantor is just a step ahead of Hensarling when it comes to that in terms of just the overall likeability and what have you done for me over the years quality. That’s very important in these insider contests.

HH: You know, it’s interesting, and it probably doesn’t matter a lick, Hensarling is by far the best communicator of Boehner, Cantor, McCarthy and Hensarling. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is pretty good, but she’s not angling for the top job or the number two job. But I mean, just head and shoulders above the others, Jeb Hensarling communicates well. The others don’t even try. And so I don’t know if that matters to them, but where are the hawks, because this is the one caucus that doesn’t get written about, and I know that the fiscal hawks are all going to be for Hensarling over Cantor. But what about the Defense hawks? Eric Cantor comes from Virginia. It’s a Defense state. Does he have their loyalty?

DD: I really think at the end of the day, Hugh, well, and I noticed your conversation with Fred Barnes, and he leaned towards Hensarling. But I think not really just because of Virginia, I think if you looked at Cantor on Defense and foreign policy, he has been the more hawkish of the two. He supported intervening in Syria in some manner. He’s been very pro-Israel. And it’s not to say that Hensarling hasn’t. I mean, this is a nuanced judgment I’m making, but I just think that if this is what we’re talking about, the hawks, and I had to give somebody the edge, I’m going to give it to Cantor.

HH: Now you know, all of America loves House of Cards, so they’ve all become far more savvy about this sort of stuff than they were before. And certainly, everyone in the building was already savvy about this. Does Cantor get help if Boehner does a sudden step down before the election, if he says you know, let’s get Eric in place now? Or is it better for Cantor to wait until after the election and do it in November at the organizing meeting?

DD: Well look, I think it’s better for the conference as a whole and the party if they do this after the election, and the reason I think it would not happen before the election is because Boehner is still a money machine as a fundraiser. And there’s no need to get in the way of that before a big election. And so Boehner’s not going to do it before then. I also think, and this view, it’s been my non-scientific view for months, and more people are starting to pick up on this, that I think Boehner really, before he makes his final decision, wants to see what happens in the Senate. And I think if Republicans win the Senate, he’s going to want to stay.

HH: Oh, no.

DD: That doesn’t mean he’ll end up staying…

HH: Oh.

DD: But I think that’s going to have a huge influence on what he actually decides that he wants to do.

HH: Oh, I might lose Senate races to stop that, David Drucker. That’s a joke, of course, but that, that’s like the worst news you could possibly give me, because, and well, stick around during the break. And I like John Boehner. It’s just that the party needs a new start. They need a fresh face and they need energy.

— – —

HH: David, I had on three Senate candidates today – Steve Daines from Montana and Ed Gillespie from Virginia, and Mike McFadden from Minnesota. Gillespie had a huge first quarter. He raised $2.2 million dollars. Tom Cotton outraised Mark Pryor in Arkansas. I haven’t seen any of the other reports, yet. Daines is double digits ahead of the appointee lame duck in Montana. McFadden sounded upbeat. Even Al Franken’s sweating. I mean, right now, it’s, the news is too good from the Republican Senate, isn’t it?

DD: It’s been very good, and I think we have to see how Republicans do after the primary season. And if their candidates, and you’ve named some candidates that have gotten good reviews, if they’re able to put together, if the campaign operations they’ve put together are top notch, they don’t make unforced errors, I mean, the one thing the Democrats are good at, and they have been at least over the six to eight years, is running generally error-free operations.

HH: Right now in Georgia is the one place where things could go off the rails. I endorsed Jack Kingston. The audience knows that. I’m a big Jack Kingston fan, early adapter of good technology, very good communicator. Yeah, he’s an appropriator, but he’s very pro-Defense. Is that where the Achilles’ heel of the Republicans is?

DD: I mean, when we’re looking at the map, it’s so Republican-friendly except for Georgia, as you mentioned, and yes. What I’m told, and the people that follow Georgia that work in Georgia, they seem to say everything will be fine as long as our nominee isn’t Broun or the other Congressman, there’s one more Congressman other than Kingston that’s running, Gingrey. And as long as it’s not those two, they think they’ll be fine. Georgia is a state that really is changing. And if you look at the county map, blue versus red, it’s really changed over the last decade. And it’s probably going to be a much more competitive state in a few cycles. But Republicans should be fine as long as it’s not Broun or Gingrey.

HH: Yeah, if they put up Jack Kingston, he’s a center-right Defense conservative. And Michelle Nunn won’t stand a chance against that. Last question, Tom Cotton beat Mark Pryor. I don’t think anyone was looking for him to beat him, because Cotton took a few days off and got married. And so the question is, is in fact, are the Democrats going to cut off Pryor? I mean, don’t they have to triage him?

DD: Yeah, no, they’re not going to do it, yet, because right now, they like their numbers, and they like their chances. Don’t forget, Pryor has been very well-liked, very not-Blanche Lincoln-like, has a legacy name in Arkansas, and has worked the local game very well. And lately, the Democrats have been putting out some good polls. Now you know, we went through the issue last cycle of which polls to believe and why, but I will just tell you that right now, there is no sign whatsoever the Democrats are getting close to cutting him loose. And I think you’re going to have to see, you’re going to have to see Cotton do extremely well poll after poll after poll, and have the wave really build before they would cut off somebody like Pryor.

HH: Always a pleasure, David Drucker, from the Washington Examiner.

End of interview.

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