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September 21, 2011

New Blood In GOP Senate Leadership

Lamar Alexander ("Lamar!" for those older enough to remember his failed presidential bid) has resigned as Chairman of The Republican Conference, the number 4 slot on the GOP leadership team.

Seems he wants to be free to sell out the GOP on a more regular basis.

“What I’m giving up is a seat at the table for more independence,” Alexander said Tuesday in an interview shortly after he announced his decision to resign as Republican Conference chairman.

Alexander said he wants to steer the Senate back to its role as the chamber that forges the nation’s great compromises.

His decision marked an about-face in a legislative career that, for nine years, had been aimed at advancement up the leadership ladder. Alexander had been widely expected to mount a campaign to become Republican whip, the No. 2 position in leadership — a spot he lost by a single vote in a bid five years ago.

With Jon Kyl retiring at the end of his term after the 2012 elections, the number 2 spot will be open again. Lamar! probably figured with more conservative members in the freshman class and more on the way, he'd likely lose any bid to move up.

With two spots open in the leadership team, there's bound to be plenty of jockeying for position amongst Republican Senators.

Which brings us to the new blood in the leadership team...freshman Ron Johnson from Wisconsin. Come January, he's going to run for the number 5 spot which is, vice-chair of the conference. And it looks like he already has the votes lined up.

It doesn't matter if Senate Republicans are getting the message or the moderates are simply getting outvoted. Putting a freshman, who came up through the tea party route, in a leadership spot is definitely the good kind of CHANGE!

Consider this: The vice-chairmanship is currently held by John Barrasso of Wyoming. Barrasso got the job when Lisa Murkowski was stripped of the spot after her write-in win over Joe Miller. Just think, less than a year ago it was Alexander and Murkowski running the conference and soon it will be Barrasso and Johnson. That definitely represents an improvement for conservatives in the Senate.

Add in another expected influx of conservative freshman after the 2012 elections and maybe, just maybe, the Senate won't be the graveyard of conservatism in the near future.

There should also be a lesson in the success of a guy like Johson for tea party activists across the country. Vetting candidates matters, especially at the statewide level. You can get away with running more, er, eccentric candidates in safely crafted congressional districts but in statewide races, candidates matter. Look at some of the freshman who won in '10: Pat Toomey from PA, Johnson from WI, and Marco Rubio from Florida. To win in swing states with these kind of candidates, you need to pick wisely. In red states you have more latitude but even in Utah, Mike Lee is a solid guy.

Hopefully after seeing someone like Johnson beat Russ Feingold potential candidates will see it's possible for tea party oriented conservatives to win these races and do well in the Senate. Maybe that will get some novices with solid backgrounds and good stories to tell to step up and take a shot at running this time around.

One last note. I'm sure everyone is thinking, "What about Rubio for leadership?" Well, he's likely going to be the VP nominee (though as I've said, in some cases I like Ron Johnson for the spot) so running for a leadership spot when you won't be around doesn't make a lot of sense. Also, the Senate is notoriously a strange web of relationships and image. You just never know why somethings happen there and others don't. There is also the possibility he just didn't want the gig.

Speaking of Rubio, not that there was any reason to doubt it but he's still pretty damn popular back in Florida.

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posted by DrewM. at 08:04 PM

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