Vote to Decide House Speaker Will Be Only Start of Longer Campaign

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 9.50.02 AMCARL HULSE Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Good Thursday morning. The trail offers some interesting back-and-forths asDonald J. Trump and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Mr. Trumps latest target of derision, will hold events near each other on the Las Vegas Strip, and as Hillary Rodham Clinton has positioned herself against a key initiative of President Obamas, but alongside her rival Democratic nominees. But while the Senate takes up the guns debate again, the main fight will be in the House, where though a vote on Speaker John A. Boehners successor will be held, the position will hardly be decided.

House Republicans gather on Thursday to choose their candidate to succeed Mr. Boehner as speaker, but that internal election won’t be the last word.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the No. 2 Republican as the majority leader, is still considered the leading candidate despite Wednesday’s endorsement of Representative Daniel Webster of Florida by the conservative Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 of the 247 House Republicans. Mr. Webster does not appear to have broad support, and Mr. McCarthy remains likely to get majority backing from his colleagues.

In the past, that would have settled the matter, and Mr. McCarthy would have cruised to victory. But these are not traditional days for House Republicans.
No matter how many votes the winner gets on Thursday, that person will need to amass at least 218 on the House floor on Oct. 29. And members of the far-right wing of House Republicans have already demonstrated a willingness to abandon their party’s choice if they think the person is not worthy.
“This is very consequential,” Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, said of the Webster endorsement. “It means Kevin won’t get to 218, and I think it spells difficulty for him on the floor.”
Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah is also running, positioning himself as an alternative should Mr. McCarthy come up short this month. Other candidates could also jump into the mix.
Much will depend on how the contenders conduct themselves over the next three weeks. Are they seen as complicit in leadership efforts to pass pressing legislation in concert with the White House and congressional Democrats before Mr. Boehner exits? Do they show a toughness and willingness to take on the Senate and the White House? Or do they put their foots in their mouths as Mr. McCarthy did on his comments about the political impact of the special Benghazi committee?
Consider Thursday’s speaker election something like an early state primary, with the real election still a few weeks off.