Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Taking a dive for the money and the glory

Warning, Conspiracy Theory Ahead.

So, the media is still all abuzz about Eric Cantor loosing his primary. Mostly because they were upset that the story so far (and everywhere else since) is the Tea Party is on the ropes and establishment Republicans were taking their party back (not really, because all those TPers who were in office also won their primaries). But it's all about the story. Remember, it's all about the story.

So, let's look at some of the facts here. In a year where TP challengers weren't able to gain much traction, the number 2 GOP operative in the House suffers not only a defeat, but a stunning defeat at the hands of his "inexperienced" opponent (see earlier link about how a lot of Dark Money was involved in this campaign, but similar to other campaigns). The same Republican who had his eyes on the desiccating corpse of John Boehner to time his own ascendancy to the second most powerful position in the country (Speaker of the House). A party operative who suffered through the cut-throat internal politics to rise up within the ranks in just a little over a decade of in office. This is the guy who apparently couldn't drive 30 minutes out of Washington on the weekends to spend time in his district. (and here I wonder if Mr. Cantor had an apartment in DC or if he commuted from home).

Okay, time to put on the tin-foil hats. Here it comes.

Eric Cantor wanted to lose.

Now, now, wait a second. Hear me out here.

Eric Cantor "wanted to be Speaker" as every pundit with a microphone was saying. The man who would be king. And that might have been true in the past.

But, really, to be speaker he would have to move Boehner out of the way. Boehner, who has already survived two internal coup attempts). Boehner, who has expressed his frustration with his own caucus. Boehner, who pretty much has a seat guaranteed for as long as he can stand for election. This is who he would have to wait his chance behind.

Now, Majority Leader is nothing to sneeze at. It's an amazing position most people would kill for (and many have figuratively done just that). But being in Congress means fundraising 24/7. No, really, when your Congress person isn't in committee, or on the floor voting, or attending appointments they are on the phone (there are party phone banks conveniently nearby) or attending lunches/dinners/breakfasts with lobbyists, donors, rainmakers, etc. Most congress members' offices are run by their staff (as most of the decisions, questions made in committee, speeches, etc are written by those staffers). It's a grueling lifestyle that will grind most people down. As Majority Leader, Eric Cantor had an even tougher schedule than most. Not only was he raising his own funds, he would raise those to donate to other candidates (to curry favor and "keep the right people" in office), and raise money for the party over all (including many of the party subcommittees). That's his real job.

So, Eric Cantor was looking at probably 6 or 8 more years in the Leader position. Notice I didn't say Majority Leader. There is a distinct chance, even with the intense gerrymandering that went on in 2010, that because of the supremely low approval rates that the GOP may lose control of the House (probably not this cycle, but if they win the White House in 2016, definitely in 2018, note the timing of that and when Eric may have had a chance to become Speaker).

Mr. Cantor is a smart guy. I disagree with him, but I can see he's got a mind working behind all those talking points he spouts at microphones. So he's looking at a low probability of being Speaker if he does his job correctly, because of the timing and the ability of Speaker Boehner. And then, look at the actual job. Eric has a front seat to all the internal struggles, the attempts to unseat, the inability to get anything done (including internally). Herding cats would be preferable. Cats that still had all their claws and thought of you as a scratching post. The Speaker may be powerful, but just take a look at what Boehner has been able to do with it. Not much.

Is that a job you would take?

Or, would you look at being in the prime of your life and able to make multiples more money by being a K Street Lobbyist? Leveraging his political savvy and connections to make a boat load of money, and maybe have time to see the kids and wife on weekends. Maybe take a vacation once in a while. Maybe not drive yourself and your reputation into the dust pile of politics (it's no longer a mud pit, it's been dried out). Maybe live a little.

And still have power. Still direct government. Still be connected. All the perks of being a player in DC.

Plus you have a full pension from the US Government for the service you've already given.

So, what would you do? Would you fight against the talking heads, spend your money, lose more time from family, suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to keep the chance, the merest chance you might become Speaker. If your party can hold the House. If you don't screw up. If you aren't eaten by the insurgents in your own ranks. And just what would being Speaker mean? Look at Boehner. Want that?

Or do you think that the TP will continue to gain ground. Spend your time doing the things expected of your office and maybe not spend so much money or time in your district (note that all those "stake houses" the media is talking about, not in his district, those were all for other candidates). Maybe soften your position on some hot button politics (but in line with party goals). And then maybe fail in a wave of anti-incumbancy momentum which nobody could really blame you for. And then cash in.

The only thing he misjudged, I think, is that he would be the only incumbent to lose to a challenger. Yea, that doesn't look so good, does it. But note, he's the only one (so far).

Just a theory.


Eric said...

It's an interesting idea (and I sense your tongue is a little in cheek), but it seems to me there are easier ways to give up your seat than spending nearly five million dollars. Granted, most of that is other people's money, and one might look at it as one last chance to eat a lot of steaks out on the town on someone else's dime, but to raise and spend so much to so little effect is a credibility hit, if nothing else. (And I think, more than likely, Cantor himself is going to be out-of-pocket on much of his expenses; candidates usually are, even with millions in donations.)

If he didn't want his seat, he could've, "After a great deal of thought and prayer, and long discussions with my wife and family, decided that the best way to go on serving the greatest country on Earth is to accept a consulting position with Freedom Heritage America Free Enterprise Values Corporation Institute, an independent nonprofit nonideological conservative think tank and lobbying organization dedicated to Americanizing American America, for Americans, and by Americans, especially those Americans blessed enough to live in America." Instead of spending nearly five million dollars, including (probably) some dollars of his own, he'd be getting paid more than that much in speaking and consultancy fees for his "unpaid" position.

I mean, yes, he'll go on and do that anyway, but now he's probably in debt and he looks like a choad. (I mean a bigger one.)

Steve Buchheit said...

I dunno, Eric. First off, as I hear it, he's still got a few million in his war chest, so if he had to go out of pocket with some expenses, he's in a position to repay himself (IIRC, perfectly acceptable by FEC rules). Even if he had to take loans to cover cash flow, I think he's got money he's going to be looking to give away.

And there's the matter of face. If he left by saying, "I'd like to spend more time with the wife and kids, oh, and by the way, making a shit ton more money. So Longer Losers!" that would go over worse. And if he left that way there would be the tongue wagging over "he had such potential, now he's a slacker" and "why would anyone give up the Second Most Powerful Job in the World?!"

This way, he saves face. That is, if other incumbents would have lost as well. If others lost (which I think he fully expected), well, then he's just one of a crowd, the most powerful one to fall, but still one among many. But since it appears even Graham is keeping his seat, Eric is the last man out as it were.

It just doesn't jive with what I know of him; that through incompetency or oversight he lost.

I really think he intentionally pulled his punches and got starry eyed with money and influence. There was some talk over the weekend of him denying he is going to be a lobbyist (which, technically for 4 years I don't think he can do, although there are ways around that). And there was some talk of GOP Chairman (not a shabby job either, and also probably pays more than Majority Leader, although it has much less power and influence than even a K Streeter). In the end, I think he's not only going to land on his feet, but he's going to be doing much better in a year than he is doing now.

Steve Buchheit said...

Who knows, maybe Ailes offered him a position.