While the final numbers are still up in the air, it’s safe to say New York saved the Republican Party — and, more importantly, spared the nation another two years of unfettered vandalism by the Biden administration.
He might have fallen short on the herculean task of winning the governor’s race, but down-ballot the GOP flipped four House seats in deep blue New York, sending an impressive 11 members to fill out the majority in Washington, DC, in the new year.
Despite that close call, there’s no sugarcoating the fact that Republican leadership has failed and they will pay for it.
“McCarthy, McConnell, McDaniel: McFailure,” is the mantra pushed by rebel Republicans.
It’s astonishing that RNC chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel has the hide to seek a fourth term after presiding over two avoidable losses. Her losing streak is three for three if you count the 2018 midterms.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Mitch McConnell also need to be held accountable for the midterm disappointments.
And, to the extent that he has leadership aspirations, so does Donald Trump. His intervention in the last days of the campaign was destructive, and his mercurial meddling in pre-selections fell flat, but it is just a cynical diversion by party leadership to pin all the blame on the former president. Trump will be judged, one way or the other, in the presidential primaries, where he is destined to meet Ron DeSantis and any number of younger challengers.
May the best man win. But that contest is a long time off.
In the meantime, if the GOP has any chance of winning in 2024, the party needs to refresh, rally behind new leadership and new ideas, learn to ballot harvest better than Dems, stop the infighting, and work out how to turn the popular vote of the people into power.
McConnell may be unassailable in the Senate, but McCarthy is vulnerable, despite the 188-31 vote Tuesday by his House colleagues to nominate him as speaker in the next Congress.
If House Republicans end up with just 219 or 220 seats, all it takes is two or three members to upset the apple cart for McCarthy on Jan. 3’s real vote for speaker.
He needs 218 votes to win and at least two of his colleagues have vowed publicly not to vote for him under any circumstances.
In fact, Florida’s Matt Gaetz says he knows of at least five people who would rather be “waterboarded by Liz Cheney than vote for Kevin McCarthy” as speaker.
“Kevin McCarthy couldn’t get 218 votes, he couldn’t get 200 votes, he couldn’t get 190 votes today, so to believe that Kevin McCarthy is going to be speaker, you have to believe he’s going to get votes in the next six weeks that he couldn’t get in the last six years,” Gaetz told reporters Tuesday.
“I think we can do better. Right now, we need new leadership. We need to turn the page. We need someone who has broad credibility with conservatives and centrists and moderates throughout the conference . . . and can unite us.”
So, who might that person be?
The dark-horse candidate — but the most promising — is none other than New York’s own Lee Zeldin.
The four-term congressman was tight-lipped about the prospect as he was cleaning out his office in DC this week, but there is no shortage of people urging him to run for speaker — at least eight at last count.
The rules allow for an outsider, and names like former Democrat Tulsi Gabbard and former Speaker Newt Gingrich have been floated.
Résumé to be Mr. Speaker
But Zeldin is the only realistic prospect, having served in the House for the last eight years and being popular across the board. He gets newfound respect for his feat of bringing conservatives, independents and moderate Democrats into the tent in the blue stronghold of New York.
“Of course, over the last week I’ve received phone calls from people asking me to consider different roles,” Zeldin says, tantalizingly.
He is coy when asked about challenging McCarthy, but doesn’t rule it out. He does confirm that he has been asked to run for the RNC chairmanship, the state Republican chairmanship, Suffolk County executive in 2023, against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2024, or to take on Hochul again in 2026.
“I have not been making any calls to anybody to campaign for any of that, but I have been receiving calls from people who feel strongly about these options and calls around the county from people asking me to seriously consider taking on this new role with the RNC and in the coming days and weeks I am going to . . . determine which path is the one where I can be most effective . . .
“Once I decide to make the move, the one thing everyone should know with full confidence is that I’m all in and it will be physically impossible for somebody to outwork me . . .
“One of the benefits of change for any organization is the next person who is coming in from a different background [will have] fresh ideas and a new perspective that allows the organization to strengthen and improve.”
He also points to the specific and disciplined message he used to create New York’s red wave.
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“We weren’t just anti-Kathy Hochul, [we were] campaigning to roll back pro-criminal laws, fire weak DAs and support the men and women in blue.
“I feel nationally it’s important on substance to articulate strongly what you stand for with a disciplined message that voters become increasingly familiar and comfortable with and that’s the only way to create enthusiasm and energy and a movement that delivers a wave . . .
“People think a wave is inbound so everyone will jump on board, but my theory is you need to be behind your board doing everything in your power to create the wave until the polls close at 9 p.m.”
Zeldin sure is running for something. And since the House would not be in Republican hands without his efforts, the speaker’s job is a no-brainer.
But if McCarthy manages to soothe and shmooze his flock to eke out a win, Zeldin’s many fans in the party will ensure he becomes RNC chairman.
Melania’s got moxie
It says a lot for Melania Trump that she signed up again for the punishment of her husband’s political ambitions, considering how nastily she was treated by the media last time.
She was snubbed and vilified from the day she arrived in the White House until the day she left. Her restoration of the Rose Garden was unjustly maligned. Her tasteful Christmas decorations were mocked. Unlike her first lady predecessors, and Jill Biden, she never was asked to be on the cover of Vogue. Her marriage was constantly ridiculed. But at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday night, she was all smiles after Donald Trump’s speech as she pressed the flesh with him to the tune of David Bowie’s “We Can Be Heroes.”
She is clearly right behind his 2024 campaign to Make America Great Again, Again. So much for the gossip mongers who said she would file for divorce the minute they left the White House.