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As I said yesterday, I’m slightly more bullish on Kevin McCarthy’s chances than the conventional wisdom seems to be.
The main reason is that I think the incentive structures are lined up to make a McCarthy victory a win for all of the players. Let’s take them, one by one.
McCarthy: His primary objective is to become speaker, obviously. Kevin is to the gavel what Gollum was to the Ring. It’s his precious. His secondary objective is preserving his ability to make money after he’s out of politics.
Republican Conference Leadership: Let’s assume that Steve Scalise, Elise Stefanik, and their confederates are all motivated primarily by personal ambition. In normal times, they might welcome the chance to knife McCarthy and climb over his carcass. The problem is that in this case, a McCarthy defeat would give so much power to the 20 Republican defectors that any replacement speaker would be doomed to failure.1
Maybe Stefanik would be happy to see Scalise get the gavel—because McCarthy gone and Scalise in ruins is good for her. But I suspect that Scalise doesn’t want it in these circumstances. His incentive is for McCarthy to eat this shit sandwich while he waits for 2024.
Current McCarthy Rank-and-File Supporters: Their incentives are nearly always dominated by the desire to protect their careers. Unless voting for McCarthy becomes a liability with Republican base voters, they want a McCarthy win because