Even though the vote-counting process embarrassingly drags on in a few states, House leadership elections are about to take place. Assuming they win a majority, Republicans will elect a speaker, a majority leader, a whip, and a conference chair.
Most people probably don’t even know what the House Republican conference chair does. Even so, the race for this fourth-ranked leadership position in the House is already shaping up to be the most important leadership race in years. The main reason is that the two announced candidates are already taking opposite sides in the 2024 presidential race.
Rep. Byron Donalds, a staunch black conservative representing a district in southwest Florida, is reportedly telling colleagues that he is backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over Donald Trump for president in 2024.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, the incumbent House Republican conference chairwoman, was supposed to develop House Republicans’ party message during the election that just concluded. She is a more centrist congresswoman from New York’s North Country. After the election, she immediately endorsed Trump for president — the first member of Congress to do so. She has also made the rounds on television, embarrassingly attempting to downplay the Republicans’ disappointing failures in the midterm elections.
“Republican voters determine who is the leader of the Republican Party, and it’s very clear President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party,” Stefanik told Breitbart. “I am proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for President in 2024.”
Stefanik looks like a fool for instantly endorsing Trump for president immediately after such a grand Republican flop of an election. Out of her own mouth, she declared Trump the leader of the Republican Party — so then why would his organization’s dismal failure become the occasion for praising and rallying around him, let alone place all of one’s party’s hopes in him? Is no one concerned that the specter of another Trump presidency could harm Herschel Walker in his Senate runoff in Georgia?
Trump did not single-handedly cause the Republicans’ midterm disaster, but a key theme of the 2022 election results is that he does weigh other Republicans down. Yes, Trump knows how to annoy the right people, but he has a very hard time not annoying most of the other people while he’s at it. He also showed terrible political judgment in his candidate endorsements this year — a recurring error that resulted in multiple unnecessary losses from the top to the very bottom of ballots in several states, especially in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Trump’s behavior on the campaign trail was also bizarre and erratic in a way that a party’s leader cannot afford to be. It was at a campaign event in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, that he first rolled out his rather lame “Ron DeSanctimonious” dig at the Republican governor of Florida. DeSantis was actually on the ballot, yet Trump couldn’t even wait until after the election to start badmouthing him.
And, of course, he hasn’t stopped badmouthing DeSantis since the election either, even though he admits to voting for him. Trump responded to DeSantis’s booming, broad-coattailed win in Florida last Tuesday with a rambling, angry, ungrammatical sour-grapes statement. He claimed to have made DeSantis’s career and accused the governor of lacking “loyalty and class” — essentially because DeSantis hasn’t ruled out a presidential run of his own. How dare he even think of running for president before he leaves office in 2026 and becomes a has-been!
Trump also said DeSantis’s “overall numbers for a Republican were just average,” which isn’t true, and that he shut down his state due to COVID, which definitely does not ring a bell.
But to the average Republican voter, this isn’t an accurate reflection of DeSantis’s record. It reads much more like the angry and envious rant of a loser against a winner. In that vein, it is worth mentioning that Trump now trails DeSantis in a new national poll among Republican voters 41% to 39%. And in Texas, a state where Trump was beating DeSantis by 17 points in October, the Florida governor now tops Trump 43% to 32%. No wonder Trump is blowing his stack and writing run-on sentences — DeSantis, without having to say a word, is already living rent-free in Trump’s head.
Last Tuesday, DeSantis showed why he is the most successful state party leader in the nation, even as Republicans floundered elsewhere. While Trump’s endorsed candidates were losing and dragging down entire state Republican tickets, Florida had its own little red wave.
So, back to the House leadership race. If enough Republicans in the House support Donalds over Trump’s biggest cheerleader, it will show that a growing majority of the party is ready to move on. That is exactly what the Republican Party could use at the moment.