House Republicans are in an absolute mess as they struggle to figure out who will emerge as their new speaker, but the temporary brouhaha may lead to Rep. Dan Webster's — and Florida's — gain. The conservative from Central Florida has emerged as a dark-horse candidate in a race for speaker where all the candidates at the moment are dark horses after Rep. Kevin McCarthy surprisingly pulled out of the race yesterday.
The major problem: Webster might not even win reelection in Florida in 2016.
Webster served in the state legislature for decades in both houses and was speaker in the Florida House in the late '90s. He made the jump to the federal level after beating Rep. Alan Grayson in 2010. (Grayson would then successfully run again in another district, after redistricting, and is now running for U.S. Senate.) Webster rode the Tea Party wave to his initial victory and has aligned himself with conservative causes ever since.
Of course, the influx of Tea Party Republicans in the House since 2010 has set up the current crisis of leadership. Webster and his ilk are known for sticking to their conservative principles without much effort to ever compromise. That means an inability to compromise not only withDemocrats but also often with the more mainstream wing of their own party.
The current inter-party strife makes the speaker role something of a thankless job, but, naturally, Tea Partiers don't want a moderate Republican in the role.
Webster now has the endorsement of the Freedom Caucus, a 40-member caucus of some of the most conservative members of the House. In fact, the caucus' support of Webster may have had something to do with McCarthy dropping out of the race (or there might have been rumors about an affair, but who knows).
And Webster certainly wants the job.
“Everyone knows this is a top-down process, and my plan is to flatten the pyramid of power so every member has an opportunity to be successful,” he told the Miami Herald about what he would to do with the job.
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Except remember that whole mess in Florida about how our current house districts are unconstitutional and favor Republicans? Yeah, Webster's district is one of the most affected, and once the courts redraw the districts, it could become much harder for him to win reelection in 2016.
Then again, the race for speaker is still very much in flux, and many doubt the conservative branch of the House will get its way by handpicking the next speaker.
Though, if Webster were to become speaker, he'd be the first one from Florida.